An appreciation …

Since it’s Valentine's Day, I figured I’d start this thing I read about a couple of weeks ago. I’d link to the article where I read this to show some love to the writer … but I can’t find the link (Edit: I found it! Read here).

This will be an ongoing list of people and things I appreciate, but mostly people. The post that inspired this wrote about people she appreciated currently, but also in the past. I’ll start with one of each.

Also, I’ll update this from time to time and make sure I do so by putting the most recent ones at the top.

Feb. 14, 2022

When I last lived in Chicago, I rode the El to work each day. If you’re familiar with the El, it’s a bit bouncy as it traverses the tracks around the city. In the winter of 2004, I’d recently shoveled my parent's sidewalks — because I’m a good son— and shoveling is the one activity that sets a previous back injury off. Right in the small of my back. It doesn’t happen often, but on this particular occasion, whatever I’d done to the soft tissue in my tailbone was causing excruciating pain. Pain that made the slightest of movements send shockwaves throughout my body.

Being a trouper, I’d gone into work the next day. I tried working for a couple of hours, but any time I moved, pain so bad I was almost in tears. My boss noticed and sent me home in the middle of the day. I boarded the El, put my headphones on and sat down. I essentially just closed my eyes as the ride back was also excruciating because of the bouncing. All I wanted was to get home, take a couple of painkillers and sleep.

As I blessedly got to my stop after 30 minutes, a homeless fellow handed me a rolled-up piece of paper. Normally, if anyone handed me anything on the El, I’d brush straight past them. But for some reason, I took the paper, unrolled it, and … my jaw dropped. It was a portrait of me, sitting on the train in my quiet pain. I may have looked like I was just sleeping but that was the longest 30 minutes of my life, I think.

I hastily pulled my wallet out, gave him the cash I had and stuttered out a “thanks” and jumped off the train before I missed my exit.

I keep his portrait in my classroom. Partially because I love it, but mostly as a reminder of what happens when we don’t do what we normally do and try to see the best of people. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it’s gotten more difficult for me to do see the best of people as easily as I used to. Maybe it’s because I’m older. Or tireder. Maybe it’s an evolving society. Maybe it’s just easier

But each day, I see that portrait and that man’s pencil strokes and I get a reminder to not just do the simple thing and to look past first impressions and to be a better man. I doubt what he was intending to do with his gift, but what he gave me was more than either of us could have expected.

The second appreciation: my daughter, Sydney’s wit and charm. As we sat in the living room, the Super Bowl playing quietly in the background, she said “I don’t know anything about hockey.” She wasn’t intending to prove her point with that statement, but she did.

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