Having been in my various professions for so long, there have been times when I felt I was going nowhere and that my attempts at helping people help themselves was fruitless.
Being the therapists’ therapist, I heard this kind of doubting oneself, often. I found the answer to my own dilemmas by becoming a free spirit, paying compliments to strangers, admiring and reading tattoos, loving seeing people of all ages in love and telling them they made my day. You know. You’ve heard it all before and that is because it is so much a part of who I am.
Meeting the Woman Inside
It all started early in 1980 after my divorce was finalized. I felt completely free to release the woman I knew lived inside me. It felt glorious. Words cannot describe that level of spirit, that free spirit, which included saying what I wanted to say without regret and certainly without anyone correcting or admonishing me. I was given this gift of seeing beyond a person’s face or expression and if I got this sense of energy, I would remark on it. Once said it was forgotten, as that’s what love is. Dr. Leo Buscaglia taught me that. Having no expectations is a wonderful place to reside.
Compliments are Never Wasted
I remember teaching graduate studies for Marywood University and speaking on this subject of saying what one was feeling – that compliments are never wasted. Of course I received much skepticism and encouraged them to go out and try it. The results were amazing. But, not as amazing as an email I received on Sunday January 14th from a man whose name is John DePalma. I have his permission to copy his email in its entirety.
You won’t remember me but I’m reaching out to you because I’ve recently started a life/time project where I’m documenting (on a spreadsheet no less!), any and all correspondence sent or given to me over the years.
I was a waiter at The Country Squire Diner on Rt. 35 in Wall Township N.J. in 1983 and you came in for lunch one day in October. We had the most wonderful conversation and I’ve always remembered your lovely personality and kind words.
You left this card with my tip enclosed and I have kept it with me always. It meant a lot of me then and still does. After receiving it from you, I remember making a decision to always keep any card, letter or note from anyone who took the time to write something personal. I was 19 when we met at the diner and I’m now 53. I’ve managed to, for the most part, keep to that decision. I’ve got a box full of stuff and have recently decided to organize them by sender, date etc., on a spreadsheet in an effort to piece together my fuzzy memories of my life. I’ve lived all over and met so many people, and had many jobs (lol!). Something about being this age has created a desire in me to timeline the people, places and events of my life so that I have a clear picture of all that I’ve done.
Your card was in the box along with many others and seeing it again, compelled me to find a way to contact you and properly thank you for being so kind back then; for inspiring me to be the kind of person that would take the time to write a note to a complete stranger. I’ve done exactly that many times throughout my life’s adventure and I know that it’s because you did it for me. Your one simple act of kindness and thoughtfulness created the desire in me to always look to do the same for others. I lived in NYC for 11 years but am now happily wedged into an apartment in beautiful Asbury Park N.J. The one thing I miss about NYC was that each day there, a person had multiple opportunities to do some small kindness for others. In the suburbs you have to look a bit harder for those opportunities.
I‘ve scanned and attached a copy of the card you left for me. It gives me great joy to bring it back to you after all these years. For the record, I have had and continue to have a good life, doing what makes me happy most of the time. I‘ll be thinking of you as I scan and record notes and cards and letters and emails.
Thank you again and all blessings to you. John.”
I wrote back that I was utterly overwhelmed and still am.
I read it to a colleague, a brilliant businesswoman, Executive Director and she cried. I say again, Thank you John, and perhaps in the Spring I’ll collect some of my friends and we will journey to the restaurant in Asbury Park to meet you one Saturday, which is the only day you are there.
Actually I have a little history about Asbury Park. There was a large hotel there, and I think it was close to the Salvation Army hospital. We used to hold Gamblers’ conferences there and John and I went one weekend so I could finish writing my second book. It was lovely and very conducive to my concentration to get it completed.
Your message to me some 35 years later gives me more determination to encourage people to never give up. Whoever would have thought so many years later, a simple act is remembered. I am so grateful. Nothing based on love is ever wasted and who said we have to know the person to whom we are writing notes, hugging, smiling?
Kindness is Never Wasted
To all people, kindness is never wasted. It is given without thought of return – just a spontaneous act from the heart. How much time does it take to pay a compliment? No time at all. Obviously with John, it hit the right spot and oftentimes it opens a quiet aspect of one’s self to continue to grow and be comfortable within one’s skin. Follow the bliss.
One thing John said about the suburbs is that we have free hugs, which started in Doylestown and travels all over. It was founded by my dear friend Edie Weinstein and has grown beautifully. Another action that requires no preparation or expectation; it just is.
So many in my profession(s) rarely know the outcome of our work. That’s when exhaustion sets in if there are expectations. My professional experience is frequently questioned by those who do not trust working outside the box. Those who love it embrace it and join those of us who act on impulse. (Thank you David Bowie for helping us ‘different’ people to develop). One aspect needs attention. I am not a mathematician in any way. However I know that I can’t give what I don’t have. Loving oneself, liking, trusting and so on is crucial because that makes it all real.
Many years ago, my John took me to Ireland for the first time even though I am half Irish. He lived there for many years. As we walked along the streets in Killarney, there was a man in a doorway begging for money. John took out his wallet and I said that he’ll probably drink it away, to which he replied. “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” I never forgot that. It was one of the first lessons of many I learned from him.
This beautiful action of the email isn’t just about me. It is a very strong message from John DePalma, which in turn I feel to be true. “You have to give it away to keep it”.
Whatever he received from that incident, he has continued to expand on it himself. So it is for all of us. I am a perpetual student, yes, even at my advanced years. If I didn’t continue to learn from the people who put their pain in my hands, my work would be useless. Whatever people get from me, I receive from them bountifully. Education is a two way system, not talking at, but listening to.
I thank you again John. It was such a gift that I hold to my heart and as I said to myself……………who knew???? Stay in touch. Blessings to you and to those who are excitedly learning what this love thing is all about.
2 thoughts on “We Just Never Know”
Hello my dear friend. What a touching and beautiful story. It’s so wonderful when someone you have touched finds you years later and gives you the opportunity to realize that you have, and do, touch people in ways most would never know. There have been 3 times in my life that the past has come back to thank me for simply being there and listening while not realizing how much a simple act could change their life and existence. I am so glad that he was able to find you and share his story with you to confirm what all of us that know you understand. You do touch people and you do make a difference. You made a difference in my existence so thank you!
Beautiful story. You touch so many. Some become a part of your life for a time, and I’m blessed to be one of those people. That others like that lovely young man share just moments and carry a piece of your kindness with them, make it their own, and pay it forward – amazing. I’m so happy he wrote to you. An unexpected gift I know you cherish. You make a difference and I love you to pieces, darling!