Notice the people who are happy for your happiness, and sad for your sadness. They’re the ones who deserve special places in your heart.
This quote hits on a very great truth. It hints at the fact that the people in our lives who really care about our good days and our bad days, are not always the ones we would expect them to be.
This truth was evident over the last few weeks as our little family of five experienced a small wave of ‘good news/bad news’ kind of days in close succession. During this time, there was a handful of people who were ‘ happy’ for our happiness and ‘sad’ for our sadness. Most of them were the usual suspects (immediate family, close friends, etc.) but a few were wild card surprises….. people who arrived at their special place not through blood relation or obvious proximity…but simply because they elbowed their way in with kindness.
One of them in particular, is who I am writing about today. He is a true wildcard in our world…. But someone who has unfailingly celebrated the big moments as well as the small moments in the life of our family, for almost a decade now…And he has shown his loyalty and concern not just occasionally- but quite devotedly- over and over again.
His name is Bill. I have not one idea in this world what his last name is. He is simply ‘Bill’…. and for the ten or so minutes that it will take him to scan my items through his check stand, he devotes himself fully to investing in all of the happies and the sads that might be present in our life on that particular day. ( For the grammar cops out there, I know… ‘happies’ and ‘sads’ are not proper words… and I am ok with this) So, perhaps at first glance it may seem that Bill is ‘just’ a checker at my grocery store…. but that is really just a slick disguise that the universe lets him wear. Bill is one of my people…. And I am one of his.
On Friday, I was at the store picking up a prescription for antibiotics for our daughter, along with gossip magazines, chicken broth, Jell-O, and Gatorade. As each item passed before the red laser light and received its requisite beep, Bill read the cues. With the sincerity of a true family friend he asked all the right questions. Who was sick at home? Was she getting better? etc. Once he had covered that base, he quickly checked in one by one on the rest of our clan. How’s the hubby? Is Jr. Behaving? Where is the little guy in camp this summer? As he deftly emptied my cart he checked into every nook and cranny of meaning that my life has. After he hands me my receipt and I complete my purchase, something else within me completes itself in a whole different way. Bill has once again secured his spot… in that very special place in my heart.
He has hugged me when I buy sympathy cards, high fived me when he scans a celebratory bottle of bubbly, and responds flawlessly to every nuance that shows up there in that little wire cart. He has read all my books and can quote them, inquires about my next career move while remembering the last, and always manages to make me feel like my smile is an absolute necessity in his world. I never expected to have a confidant of this type in my life…. A laughing Buddha of a man who really cares about our happy…. and who really cares about our sad.
But I have to admit, that door swings both ways… because I care deeply about his happies and I care deeply about his sads, too. Over the course of our unlikely friendship, Bill has lost his beloved, suffered through a debilitating back injury, and most recently spent months away from work nursing a torn muscle in his arm….. When he told me about this last injury and surmised that the action of scanning items day after day had taken its toll on his right arm causing one of his muscles to snap like a rubber band, although I appreciated the logic of this, I envisioned the etiology of his injury much differently. When you stretch your arms wide open each day and embrace others with the whole of your being…. It’s a very big stretch. I know how I feel when Bill embraces me….. he takes my whole world in….. the happies the sads and everything in-between. And I know it is not just me that feels this way…. I have seen plenty of other customers wrapped up in his bear hugs…. Or locked in sincere conversation with him in the middle of a bustling supermarket. He can say what he wants about his injury, but in my mind, his arm muscle snapped because he stretched it too far by loving all of us so much. Let’s just call it a ‘good karma stress fracture’…yes, I think that is exactly what it must have been.
On Friday, as I left Bill’s check stand and walked toward the automatic doors with my bounty of Jell-O and Gatorade, just before I could push my cart out those doors to the outside world, he let out one last whoop of communication that traveled easily across the entire store.
“Annette, babe!!! I love ya, man. Go take good care of that baby girl of yours and come back and see us here soon.’
In times past,when he has erupted like the bullhorn of kindness that he is, and yelled some nicety across the store at me, I have been bashful, and my only response has been to quietly mouth words of appreciation back to him.
Last Friday that changed, the cumulative effect of our week of happies and sads had left me in a space of not caring much what anyone else in that store may have thought. In a voice just as loud as Bill’s I bellowed back to him,
“I love you too Bill. I love you too!’
And as crazy as it may seem, I really do.
If ten years ago, I had been able to look ahead into my own life and see the varied group of folk who have earned their place among those who share our happies and our sads…. I would certainly have been surprised. Sad, for sure, at a few of the vacant spots that we never expected, but amazed and grateful to the wildcard souls who have shown themselves to be invested in our moments… invested in the happies and the sads that make up the measure of a lifetime.
Notice the people who are happy for your happiness, and sad for your sadness…. And give to them, the special places in your heart.