What makes a day, good? Is it an interaction where you see someone else’s day changing for the better? A blue sky that catches you by surprise with the depth of its color? A list of things made in the morning and checked off as you move through a day? The hug you share at the end of one? The kiss that begins it?
As I moved through my day, I wasn’t sure what sort of day it was turning out to be. While I made my bank teller’s day, and made progress on some projects. I wasn’t able to get much traction, with others. There were more things I didn’t even have a chance to think about, much less begin. Nothing bad happened. It’s just that it didn’t seem to stand out in any way. Mostly it felt, well, ordinary.
When Bud was in Middle School, I made a point of asking him every day how his day was. It’s a simple habit I still do. Then, “Normal” was typically the only thing he’d say. Just that one word. If he said more, it meant the day was exceptional. Moving through today, I was ready to label it as being normal in that way. Except I kept running into things that reminded me that in wanting to see changes or accomplishments of a certain magnitude before calling a day “good” I was missing the point.
Parker Palmer posted a beloved poem by Leonard Nathan–on Facebook–about accepting yourself as you are. In his comments about the poem he reminded me that what I was feeling wasn’t unusual,
“Given my small, ordinary, un-famous and fleeting life, what can I do that’s of true worth and value?”
“What can I do that’s of worth and value?” What am I doing even on this most ordinary of days?
With a Facebook status update Tim Madigan helped me take a step to an answer. He relayed how the day before, instead of speaking to a class of students about the way to write long feature stories, he instead talked about where the stories come from. Here’s what he said:
“Yesterday TCU journalism professor Robert Bohler invited me to talk to his sports writing class about how to put together a long feature story. I decided to talk about Fred Rogers instead, basically because I needed to hear the message of the great man again myself. So I told the students what Fred told me: It was okay to feel afraid, sad, angry, to feel like a mess inside because pretty much everybody does at one time or another. There is another word for mess, that’s human. But Fred taught that you don’t have to be a mess alone. He was so good at coaxing our messes out of hiding, receiving them with that supernatural presence of his, that compassion, that non-judgment, that wisdom, that love.. Yesterday, I could see in their young eyes that I was kind of rocking the students’ world. It certainly wasn’t what they expected. Me either, as far as that goes. What does “Anything Mentionable is Manageable,” or “That which is more personal is most universal,” or “Your place in this life is unique, absolutely unique,” have to do with sports writing? Everything, as it turns out.”
Madigan told a story he “needed to hear” himself. That story allowed him to rock the students world. Listening to our gut, is a small way we exercise trust in ourselves. For me his story helped me see that I hadn’t been accepting the day for what it was.
Today I also watched a video clip from the CBS Sunday Morning episode that aired on March 1st. The clip is about a high school basketball team displaying a trough of March-sanity. When they learned the team they were playing didn’t have any fans, they recruited some for them.
Steve Hartman, the CBS reporter conducting the interview, comments in the clip, “This is not what I’ve ever heard sports be.” In reply, Hudson Bradley–one of the players who recruited fans for the other team said–said, “I think in a way, this is kind of how sports should be. It’s kind of shown me the real impact that encouragement and support for anybody can make.” In a voice over, Hartman quotes Bradley saying, “We all need someone to believe in us. We all need someone who knows our mistakes, and loves us anyway.” Just like that a small gesture transforms a game, and becomes something a group of boys will “never forget.” A small gesture, and a remarkable story.
Afterwards I thought about how I’d made my bank teller’s day. I didn’t transform her sense of her profession, as Tim may have with the class he spoke to. I didn’t give her a memory she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life. All I did was deliver a few boxes of Girl Scout Cookies she’d had trouble finding. She thanked me three times. When I turned to leave I heard her ask a colleague, “What kind do you want?” My yes to her request for cookies, was a connection that facilitated another one with her colleague. Little moments like that? They’re what makes a day good.