“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” ― Oscar Wilde
People complain about small towns turning into big cities and losing their close-knit feel. I suppose it can happen, but within every big city are small sections of people who help keep it feeling like a small town. If you want it, you will find it. Just ask someone who finds that even in a big city, people seem to know their business when they wish they didn’t. It’s not always a negative, though, to be part of a small town and to have people know your business. That’s one of the things I learned from my friend Joe. Of course, he wasn’t just my friend–Joe was everyone’s friend. Oscar Wilde would have loved Joe because Joe didn’t treat anyone like they were ordinary.
The news hit me harder than any of recent memory. My friend died in a horrible traffic accident. He was not at all at fault, and the word tragic has been used more times than I can count. The sadness of it gripped me so tightly, and thinking of anything happy was too much work for me for many moments. Knowing he suffered, knowing he knew what was happening to him is pretty hard. Knowing that for sixty-six years he “lived large” with a smile, laugh, and heart none could forget, I knew that my sadness must be replaced with larger thoughts. So with a hurting heart and hope for you and I to choose to live a little differently, I want to tell you about being “Joe” in your town.
- Be present. When you are at work or with friends (which for Joe would be pretty much synonymous) be there with them and not thinking about how long till you can be somewhere else. People need you to be present, in the moment, with them.
- Don’t take life too seriously. When things are tense and the project deadline is about to hit you in the face, laugh a little. Joe laughed a lot. Joe could make me anyone laugh.
- Wish people some kind of day. For Joe, he’d either wish you a good one, a good day, a Bama kind of day, or a Roll Tide kind of day. For Kentucky fans like me, he was kind enough to wish me a good one.
- Give a kid a chance. Joe gave a lot of us a chance when we were kids. He might give someone a job at the rec center doing something that gave them a feeling of worth, and he always gave kids a chance to be who they were while they were trying to figure out who they were supposed to be.
- Stay in touch. One of the lessons I couldn’t have learned from Joe until I was an adult was that he cared what happened to me. Joe stayed in touch. It has always mattered to me that he took the time to check on me. I am not special in this experience. Joe kept tabs on all of us.
I try to be a good person, a caring adult, and a positive presence in most lives that have crossed my path. If I’m not able to be that kind of person, it isn’t for lack of a good example. I’ll be working a little harder from this day going forward to make sure Joe would be proud that I paid attention, and if I’ve left out any of his attributes, I’m hoping someone will let me know so we can add it to the list.
In all of my life, I’ve never known another person like Joe. I really mean that. If you don’t know someone like Joe, maybe it’s because you need to be someone like Joe for someone else. Joe never treated anyone like they were ordinary, which is why we all remember him as extraordinary.