I sat at my desk today, staring blankly out the window of the temp agency I work at. It was uncomfortably hot thanks to an over active heater that never seems to work right. My sweater was itchy and I regretted wearing it like I always do. It’s beautiful, cream and delicately stitched but makes me feel like I’m covered in prickly hives.
The phone was ringing persistently and the lobby was full of people waiting for their appointment. Despite a growing pile of work, I was bored and distracted by a lone leaf blowing across the parking lot. As I watched it dance around, a cool breeze hit my face, pulling me out of my internal complaining and leaf watching, and towards the welcomed fresh air. A grungy, old man entered and looked around before catching my eye.
The man, dressed in an over sized coat and ill fitting khaki pants, walked straight towards my desk. He didn’t have an appointment, so I forced a smile to hide my annoyance, and he responded with his own that lit up his face, despite exposing a few missing teeth. His eyes crinkled happily in the corners, drawing me to his brilliant blue eyes. They sparkled under the florescent lighting, perfectly complemented by his tan, worn skin and an unshaven face.
I spent the next thirty minutes interviewing this man, surprisingly engrossed in our conversation. He had a beautiful way of making me feel like I had been too or done the things he was describing. I could smell the metal at the steel mill and feel the heat from working in the fields under the hot sun. He weaved the tiny details together effortlessly, recalling the moments from his past like he experienced them yesterday.
When we were finishing up the interview, I asked him, like I do most interviews, why he wanted to work for my company. Most respond with, “I want to make money,” or some exaggerated explanation about how great they are and why I should be so lucky to hire them. I expected a similar, simple response, but was pleasantly surprised at his response.
He said, “I’ll tell you a secret. Life is short. You are young now, but one day you wake up and you’re old like me.” He let out a raspy laugh and then continued, looking down at his worn, hard worked hands. “I wake up every morning grateful for another day and go to bed knowing a didn’t waste a moment of that day. For me, that means working hard, loving my family, and enjoying a cold beer or two at the end of it”
We finished up the technicalities of his interview shortly after. I found my lackluster attitude had shifted during the course of our time together and thanked him.
I worked hard the rest of the day, kissed my baby more than he cared for when I got home and now I “cheers” to my new friend and all of you.
I know I’m not the only one that is guilty of carelessly floating threw the day, but I hope to always remember his advice.
That leaves me to ask: Can you look back on the day and know you lived each moment the best you could?