Opinion > Star Staff
Life's a Trip: Stranger makes huge impact
By Patti Pfeiffer
Neighbors and friends label Patrick an odd duck. After two hours listening to him, I agreed. He is caring and had wisdom, insight beyond his youthful age.
Nothing like spending hours crammed into a sardine can of a commuter plane on a tarmac, then missing a connecting flight, sitting at the Denver Airport four hours and arriving at home past midnight.
Finally situated on the homeward-bound flight after a long, stressful, nerve-wracking, patience-increasing day, I wanted only peace and quiet. But then Patrick happened.
The moment he offered a handshake and introduced himself I knew he was unique. What I didn't know about the stranger sitting next to me is that 15 minutes later he would no longer be a stranger.
Unlike most, he spoke little of his professional life. Yet, he shared plenty about his personal life: his childhood, his marriage, wife, daughter and large family. Mostly what I learned from this man is what the world could and should be like if Patrick's type, his mindset and essence were common.
"People think I'm strange. They tell me that all the time. What's strange is that they think that merely because I try my best to treat others like I want to be treated and I'm kind to everyone, including those I don't know.
"We are all alike. All human beings. Cut our arm and we all bleed red. Not white, brown, black, but red. Why shouldn't we be nice to one another and share what we have with others?"
He tells the story of hosting a backyard party for 80 kids he didn't know and had no ties to, solely because he could, because he had a spacious yard.
Heading home after a week of rooming with an Eeyore kind of person and daily exposure to negativity toxicity, his advice was timely. "I try to stay away from negative people. Some people are negative due to their nature, for no specific real reason. I don't hang around with those types. They bring you down. I learned long ago, you won't pull them up, they will drag you under. We all have a choice how we react to and accept things, especially the difficulties of life."
Patrick then relays the tale of a donkey that fell into a deep hole. Without a rope, ladder or assistance, the donkey's owner was unable to rescue the animal. Instead he did what he thought was the humane thing. Attempting to spare a lengthy, grueling death, the man began shoveling dirt on the poor creature to smother it, accelerating the end. Every time a shovel full of dirt hit the donkey, he'd shake his head, flinging soil to ground. Eventually there was enough fill for the animal to crawl out of the hole.
A story he could relate to. "My dad died when I was months old, mom when I was 2 years old. My aunt adopted and raised me. I've had my share of hard times and hard knocks but I've moved past them, learned from them and become a better person because of them. We can all do that. We have the power to become what we want.
"Life is too short and we have such an opportunity to make a difference in each other's lives. A simple smile. Saying hello. Greeting a stranger. Giving something to someone. Being charitable. Why would we want to live any other way? We were all created by God and designed to be kind, compassionate and caring to and for one another.
"We all have the ability to do the right thing. We just need to do the right thing."
Hearing that phrase stirred my heart. In sharing-sessions with my friend Lisa, it's an often proclaimed gem of advice, so much so that DTRT -- my acronym for Do the Right Thing -- quickly became branded on my brain. It sometimes fades. Often I fail. Yet DTRT remains in my mind, whether in the subconscious or conscious, impacting the overt and covert, life's every action.
Exhausted, I sat there listening, soaking in and up everything Patrick had to say. He was right. So right. Later, when my mind, body and soul rested and recuperated, I thought deeply about the insight and wisdom he shared.
Oh, what a wonderful world it would be if Patrick, his heart, his ideas and actions were so common and his kind nothing but normal, nothing worth writing about, if there was nothing "fowl" about this odd bird.
Patti Pfeiffer is a Star Local News columnist, freelance writer and author. She may be contacted at email@example.com
Copyright © 2013 - Star Local News