Thank You Stranger Week #1

images-1A week ago I set out on a project. The idea for the project stemmed from a recent lack of writing, a month of struggles in November and a conversation I had with a dear friend who read a book about a person who wrote 365 Thank You Notes in one year and then wrote a book about it. I may do that next year, but I wanted to try something else that I could do right away. I wanted my project to accomplish two primary things. One, try to write everyday after an unintended one month sabbatical. Two, make sure I was keeping my eyes open for the little things during the busy holiday season. I started the whole project by saying this:

I’ve just come out of a month of stagnation as a writer so I figure the best way to beat that is to write something on the first day of December. Instead of going to the blog I thought I’d try to post something short that tells a quick story about a stranger who did something that I am thankful for. My guidelines are it has to be somebody I’ve never met before and I have to tell the tale in 150 words or less. I’m challenging myself to do this as many days as I can in December. Can I make it to #30? We’ll see. Here goes:

I’ve since abandoned the 150 word limit but I am still trying to keep them brief. I have managed to post everyday in the first week and it has definitely caused me to go through may days more aware of opportunities to see the good. My daily posts go up on Facebook because it’s quicker than coming to the blog. I’ll post a summary each week for those of you who steer clear of Facebook or perhaps just missed out along the way. Here’s what I wrote about in week #1.

Thank You to a Stranger #1

Last week as I was crossing the street a cab pulled too far into the cross walk and almost hit me. He was traveling at a fairly low speed so I wouldn’t have been hurt, but still it was an invasion of my space and he was clearly in the wrong. I looked over my left shoulder at him through the windshield and as I did so he began to roll down his window.
For a split second I though he was going to try to find someway to flip the blame and yell at me, but what he did next was magnificent. He put his hands together in front of his heart like you would do in a yoga class and then he uttered three words. He said “I Love You” and smiled at me with an apologetic expression. A simple “thank you…my bad” would have been fine but his choice of words gave me no option but to smile back and say “I love you too.”
So I say thank you Mr. Cab Driver with the kind smile and the kinder words. Thank you for adding love to my day in a place I never would have expected it.

Thank You to a Stranger #2
The annual Radiology show is in Chicago right now. I really try hard not to and I don’t prefer to classify any people by any group or type, but let’s just say I’ve had to deal with more than my share of rude, demanding, self-entitled doctors over the last two days who are not used to hearing the word “no” or having to wait for anything. It’s hard not to become jaded.
Last night towards the end of a 14 hour day I met a radiologist from Boston. He is a customer of a friend of mine (Tim) who works in one of Boston’s top steak houses (Abe & Louie’s). We chatted for a bit on his way in and I checked on him during his dinner. On the way out I stopped the doctor from Boston at the door and said. “Let’s take a photo together and text it to Tim so he can see we are friends now.”
He looked at me with a giant smile and said, “We are friends now? We’ll let me give you my cell number so you can text it to me too then!” He then asked me if I had ever been to Abe & Louie’s. When I told him I’d never even been to Boston he said, “Well you must come this summer! Save my cell number and when you do come I will treat you and your wife to dinner at Abe & Louie’s and we’ll see Tim.”
So thank you Dr. Jay in advance for my dinner in Boston this summer, and thank you also for reminding me that there are many fine, kind, friendly, generous doctors that come to the Radiology show in Chicago

Thank You to a Stranger #3
Yesterday I was shopping for a birthday card in the Nordstrom mall. On the way down the escalator I noticed a man standing directly behind a pile off broken glass. From the mezzanine level it looked like a shattered margarita glass which would indeed be an odd site in a mall. When I reached the bottom I approached him and said, “now there’s something you don’t see everyday!”
As I spoke to him I realized it was actually a Voss water bottle that someone had dropped. The man standing and guarding the space had an interesting skull shaped lapel pin so I complimented him on it and he said, “Thank you. Most people think it’s an Alexander McQueen since it’s a skull but I’d never spend that much on a pin. I got it at Belmont surplus for $3.”
Since he was in the common area of the mall I have no idea where he worked or what motivated him to stop and guard the space, but I though how nice it was that he was making sure nobody accidentally slipped and fell on the water or hurt themselves on the broken glass. I also enjoyed his humility about the pin.
It’s nice to see things that remind us that nearly everyone’s default setting is to help others, not to hurt them. On some days, like yesterday, the actions of the few get way more coverage than the actions of the many.
So thank you to the man with the skull pin who was among the billions of helpers in the world yesterday. It’s the helpers that are changing the world one person at a time…

Thank You to a Stranger #4
Nearly every Friday morning for the last 15 years I have gotten up at 5:00 am to teach a pair of yoga classes. I drive to the club, park my car on the side street and walk through the alley into the back of the club. Up until a year ago I also used to do this every Tuesday morning also, so that means I have made this walk through the alley at least 1000 times if we go with a conservative estimate.
Since I’m usually in a foggy state until I get some tea and yoga in me I don’t notice too much. Over the years the only things I can remember about the alley are a bumper sticker that used to be on one of the dumpsters that said Colonelstem.com and the fact that there have often been rat traps along the side of the building.
This morning I noticed something new. I don’t know if it’s been there a few weeks or if it just went up yesterday, but it I do know it hasn’t been there too long. Somebody took the time to paint the word PEACE on a wooden slat and the attach it to a telephone pole using three screws. I stopped in my tracks and took a photo and thought of the kindness of the person who took the time to do this.
I’m not saying one sign in one alley on the north side of Chicago is going to help bring peace to the entire world, but it certainly isn’t going to hurt! To me it represented a shining example of “Think Globally/Act Locally”.
So thank you to the stranger who painted and posted the PEACE sign on my daily route. You brought joy to my day in an unexpected way!

Thank you to a stranger #5
Who doesn’t love Peanuts? No, not the kind that so many kids are allergic to these days with the small “p”. The Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Woodstock, Lucy & Linus kind of Peanuts with the capital “P”. I love Peanuts so much that I wanted to make sure I had the 50th anniversary Peanuts holiday stamps for our holiday cards. That meant I had to go to the post office and actually get in line.
The post office near my work is legendary for its long lines and slow service. Luckily I had an hour to kill and when I arrived at the back end of a line of about 30 people it looked like I was going to need all of it. Of the three clerks working, two were clearly not going to go out of their way to hurry or even be polite. Then there was Jerry.
Jerry had the station at the far right end of the desk and he was assisting at least three customers for every one that the other clerks assisted. He was energetic and positive. He joked with everybody in line whether he was waiting on them our not. He came out from behind the desk to assist people lifting packages. He was a joy to watch.
When I finally got my turn I was fortunate that I got to go to his line. I told him I wanted to buy some Peanuts stamps and he said, “I’d be delighted to sell them to you!” He asked for my ID to verify my credit card and noticed that I had a Michigan Driver’s License and said, “That’s really too bad what happened to your Lions last night on TV” in reference to the loss to the Packers on the last play. This guy was entirely tuned in on every level.
So thank you to Jerry the postal clerk for making what could have been an excruciating 30 minutes in line very entertaining, and thank you for being a shining example of positive energy in what many would see as a negative environment.

Thank you to a Stranger(s) #6
Once upon a time there was a great man named Richard. He bought a dog and gave it to his son Z as a wedding gift. The dog was would go on to be named Vito. Vito was well loved by all in the family. A few years later Richard’s son Z died tragically. The dog named Vito came back to live with Richard and his wife Rhonda because the widow of Richard’s son Z gave birth to a son.
For many years Vito lived happily with Richard and Rhonda. On occasion their grandson would come to visit and he got to know the dog that was a wedding gift to his father that he never met. The young boy also grew to love Vito. One day in 2014 tragedy struck again and Richard himself died suddenly. Vito was there with him at the time.
After Richard’s death Vito brought great comfort to Rhonda and many other family members and friends. He was the link to two generations of a family that produced amazing men that ran out of life well before their time. About six months ago Vito was diagnosed with a cancer that would eventually take his life too.
Thanks to a great amount of love and care Vito lived in comfort and joy and had many great walks and pictures and snacks over the last six months of his life. Yesterday that all ended as Vito quickly declined and said his final goodbyes.
Although I never met any of the vets or assistants that cared for Vito in his last six months, I want to thank them for their kindness and love to both Vito and to his Mom Rhonda . Thank you also for understanding that our animal’s spirit energy can be deeply intertwined with the stories of our lives and sometimes with the stories of our crossing over.
Not all stories can have a happy ending, but you can find so many things to be grateful for in every story. Goodbye Vito. You will be missed but I know you will enjoy your new home with Richard and Z.

Thank you to a Stranger #7
This weekend I met yet another stranger. The main reason he was a stranger is because he had not been born yet. Since I am an only child and since I lived in a different state than all of my cousins did I wasn’t really ever around any infants. In fact I’ve never really been comfortable around infants.
In the last year though I have now had the chance to hold two new souls within the first 48 hours of their lives. The first time was last November when my nephew Joshua was born. The second time was this weekend when my bonus nephew Luke was born.
I’d be lying if I said that I am all of a sudden comfortable around infants, but I can definitely say that I’m less uncomfortable. I’ll recognize that as progress. I suppose I won’t truly learn how to be more comfortable around infants until we are taking care of our own. No this is not an announcement! Just an observation.
The thing I enjoyed the most about holding Luke this weekend was fresh reminder about how pure each soul is when it comes into the world. How they only know love, trust, hope opportunity and kindness. What a wonderful state to exist in. What a magnificent default state.
So thank you to my new nephew Luke who was a stranger for an instant only, but even in that instant he taught me to remember that we always have a choice as to how we choose to see our world!

So far I’d say mission accomplished. I’m creating content. I’m walking through my day with my eyes open. I’ve beaten the November Blues (sort of). And I’m 7 for 7. Time to write #8. See you next week!

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About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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