Thursday, August 5, 2010

Speechless

"We just got back from a European cruise!" the old man said to me.

"The best part was seeing Normandy beach. And just seeing the rows of crosses where our soldiers are buried. What amazed me most was the straightness of the line...if you knelt on the ground and looked 100 crosses would blend into one. It was absolutely beautiful. When you walk up, they play the national anthem, and there is such a feeling there...I can't describe it."

"Were you in the Army?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

"Did you fight in World War II?"

"No, I was later."

"Korea?"

"No...I was in Vietnam."

Silence.

I can never explain the silence that comes over me when I meet a veteran, especially of Vietnam. It's like the images he saw and his experiences loom over our heads, and to pay respect we remain silent. I have yet to figure out how to break through this silence. Maybe it's the heroism. Maybe it's the horrors. Either way, it leaves me speechless.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mr. Broken Back

So, I haven't written in a while. It's not that I haven't met anybody interesting, because I have. I still meet someone new everyday. But I've just been so tired at the end of the day that I haven't hit up my blog. Then I say, "I'll do it tomorrow" . . . and we all know what procrastination does to us.

I did meet somebody very inspiring today. There was a guy at the gym sitting next to me doing calf raises on a machine. He was terribly hunched over, and I could tell each rep pained him somehow.

"Dude, are you okay?" I asked.

"Ya, it just hurts," the guy said. "It's my first day in the gym in about a year."

"Welcome back man," I replied. "I know how laziness can get us."

"Naw man I wasn't lazy. I broke my back a year ago." My mouth dropped.

"How did it feel when you broke it?" I asked.

"It's pretty scary when I hit and felt everything crack. I couldn't move for a little bit, but luckily it wasn't serious enough to paralyze me. I'm just glad to be back."

Everything can change in a moment. Meeting this man has made me want to stop complaining and start being thankful that every morning I can open my eyes, stand on my feet, and walk.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fear and Fortune Cookies

It all started with a fortune cookie I got from Panda Express today:

People find it difficult to resist your persuasive manner.

I thought it was kind of cool and put it in my pocket. Later that night I was at the gym swimming laps. There was an older man about 64 years old sitting in a chair in his bathing suit relaxing and watching the swimmers.

"Hey, how come you aren't in the water?" I asked jokingly.

"I can't swim," the man replied. I honestly thought everybody knew how to swim. If not, then everybody should learn!

"How come you can't swim? Didn't you learn as a kid?"

"When I was a little boy I almost drowned," he looked up and made coughing noises. "Every since then I've been terrified of the water."

That fortune cookie popped into my head.

"Get in the water," I said. "I will teach you right now."

The man looked a little surprised.

"Come on, get in. You need to know how to swim." To my surprise, he jumped in the water!

First he practiced kicking and learned how to keep his body afloat. Then we moved in to the actual freestyle technique. Finally, we learned breathing. After 30 minutes, the man swam a full lap by himself. He was so happy to have overcome a 6-year old fear.

My toast for the day: Here's to facing your fears and fortune cookies!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Red Head

"My sister would kill to have that hair, you know," I said to a red-headed girl standing next to me at a stop light.

"Well thanks," she laughed. "I kind of like it now, but not so much when I was a kid."

"Did you get teased a lot? What would kids say?"

"Oh yeah, other kids would always pick on me and call me names like "orange-head" or "red," it was pretty sad."

I laughed with her, mostly because I was amazed at the lack of creativity from the kids at her school.

"Well, I'll bet you like it now," I said.

"I love it now. Most girls want to have this hair, red and super curly. I can't lie, though . . . I would love to have straight blond hair. I would trade for that any day."

Question: Why do girls always want hair they don't have?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Beach Runner

I've moved down to CA for a month. It sucks being away from my wife, but she's extremely busy with a heavy class load and I thought I could go down to California and make some money. We said difficult goodbyes on Thursday. Today I ran from my house to the beach in Huntington Beach.

"It's a beautiful night for a run, huh?" I said to a guy with a dog at the beach.

"Ya, it's perfect right now and in the morning."

"Do you go running a lot?"

"Usually I run six miles every morning. I like to run on the sand because it really strengthens your legs. I've found when you put on running shoes after sand running you feel stronger and more stable."

We parted ways and I sat down on a log. Then I turned back and watched the guy walk away with his dog, and it hit me: I really missed my wife. I missed her companionship, her love, and her support. I missed seeing her next to me in the mornings and when I go to bed. I missed her always asking me for a small "bitesy" of food. I ran home and the next day I woke up, quit the job I had, and drove home to her.

Some conversations, like this one, seem inconsequential. But the moment right after a conversation ends could be the most important. After every conversation with a stranger there is a small moment when I am more introspective. My senses feel heightened. I think of it like a "runner's high," instead it's a "talker's high." And it was in that moment that I made the decision to come home. My wife's smile, the ten-hour drive . . . all can be traced back to a guy with a dog at the beach.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Debt Collector

Today I met a guy that, in his own words, "lives off the stupid mistakes of other people." He is a debt collector.

"So what's the funniest or craziest thing you've heard over the phone?"

He said what follows in a weird nonchalant way with a soft grin, as if he was ordering ice cream.

"I've heard things like 'I'm gonna kill your mother,' or 'I'm gonna rape you.' I've also heard people scream they are going to blow up my office. We've had so many bomb threats the police don't even care anymore. In fact, the only person that's come to this office has come to pay a thousand dollar debt."

"So what do you say when you get those crazy threats?"

"Well, if they say 'I'm gonna kick your ___,' then I say, 'Then bring your checkbook with you because after you kick my ___ you're still gonna have to pay your debt.' Or 'Well, make sure you strap a check to the bomb.' The killing-my-mom threat made me laugh the most. I said, 'Well, my mama's going to ask you for a check so have it ready.'"

This is a guy who doesn't get offended. He gets paid.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mr. Chicken Sub

Any time I catch someone glancing at me I smile at them. It erases the feeling of isolation between me and the other person. It's a connector.

"Hi, I'll have the footlong Spicy Italian please," I say.

"That sounds like a good one," the guy behind me said.

"I think it's the best one on the menu hands down. Which one are you gonna get?"

"You've convinced me. I'm gonna get the Italian. My wife put me on a diet so lately I've been ordering those Omega-3-chicken-whatever subs. But today, since I'm traveling, I think I'm entitled to treat myself to a real sub this time."

He told me he was heading to Minnesota for his daughter's wedding. In a weird twist him and his wife are flying out today on different airplanes from different airports. That's the only way they could use their frequent flyer points. He grabbed his sandwich and rushed out the door to catch his flight.

Sure he's about to go to one of the happiest days of his life: his daughter's marriage. But I like to think eating the Spicy Italian made him a little more happy today . . . and I had a hand in that.

The Flower Shop

One thing I love about talking to people is getting instant recommendations on things I don't understand. Like flowers.

I was at the flower shop today and met a nice old lady. I was choosing what kind of flower to get my sweetie, but they didn't have the traditional roses. So I asked for her preference.

"Go for the Gerbera Daisy," she said. "They are beautiful, like a big puff of color on top of a stem. For any woman, you can't go wrong with a gerbera daisy. Every woman I've ever known has loved them."

I got the gerbera daisy and my wife loved it. Sometimes a stranger's opinion can make you look so much better than you are. Thanks to her, my wife must think I have great taste when it comes to flowers.

Little does she know that, before I walked into the store today, I honestly thought they were called "Gerber Daisies." Yes . . . like the baby food.

Monday, July 5, 2010

An Old Friend

Mojo started barking at a man while he was loading up his car for a road trip this morning. Since barking dogs are annoying, I immediately went up to make friends with the man. I've found any inconvenience you cause can be washed away if you smile and talk to them.

"He's a friend!!!" I yelled at Mojo.

"Yes," the man replied with a thick Spanish accent,"I'm a friend!"

I walked over to his car to chat it up with him. With every step I took he looked more and more familiar.

"Do I know you from somewhere?" I asked.

"Do you have any friends who are General Authorities?" He replied.

And then it hit me. "You're Elder Amado!" I shouted. I was a missionary in Peru for two years back from 2004 to 2006, and this man was in charge of Western South America. I had heard him speak several times.

"You gave a couple of amazing talks," I said. "I remember one was three hours, and then an hour more after the break!"

"You're lucky," he smiled. "I've been known to talk for six!"

Here was a man who had such a huge influence on me as a missionary. I thanked him and moved to shake his hand (I would have hugged him but I had just gotten home from the gym).

He pulled me forward. "No, no, no . . . good friends have to hug."

Most of the time with The Amigo Project I get to meet new people. This was a special moment where the desire to meet someone knew led me to connect with an old friend.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Young Man

In church today a little kid was called up to the stand. The Bishop had found him worthy to receive the Priesthood, which is a very special moment for boys 12 years old and up. It is akin to a child's bar-mitzvah in Jewish tradition. I went up to meet him afterwards.

"Wow, the Priesthood is a wonderful power you will have," I said.

"Yup," was his reply.

"Are you ready to pass the Sacrament like Jesus did? Have you read how gently and reverently He passed it to his disciples?"

"Yes, and I'm excited to do it."

"Well congratulations on living your life worthily to receive such a great blessing. I want you to know when the Bishop said, 'All in favor of this boy receiving the Priesthood please signal by the uplifted hand,' I raised my hand high for you!"

"Thanks," he replied.

It obviously wasn't the most interesting of conversations, but I could tell the boy was learning to take his first steps into manhood.

He was about to receive the Power of God--wearing a "Looney Tunes" tie.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Death Defyers

My wife and I went to a cool little natural rock slide up a canyon by our house. We had heard there was a sweet bike jump into a pond somewhere--we just didn't know where. Thanks to The Amigo Project, I found out where . . . and then some.

"Hey man, those board shorts are sweet," I said to a guy in a neon-colored swimsuit.

"Ya, I like them. I got them at a surf shop where I'm from in Santa Cruz, CA." We talked a little bit about surfing and some northern spots. I asked if he'd ever been to Maverick's.

"Naw man, it's pretty much impossible there. Even when there are good waves, it's cold and there's sharks and it just sucks."

I asked him and his friends if they knew where the bike jump was. They invited us along to follow them there. I watched one of them go off it on his bike and asked, "Do you think that bike could hold me? Cause I'd love to try that!"

Thanks to The Amigo Project, I met some cool people, found a great bike jump, and even got to borrow a bike. And the rest is history:


video

Parents of a Schnauzer


Today my dog Mojo joined in on The Amigo Project. As soon as we left the house for his nightly walk to the park he started getting to know everyone around him.

His first Amigo wasn't really an amigo. It was a beautiful golden labrador puppy. Since those are bigger than my dog they got off to a rough start. But the owner was a nice guy who lives across the street from me. We talked for a while about how huge his dog is going to get. He goes to a Christian church his dad runs in the next city over. When I asked him how attendance was he smiled and said, "Not many people go to church anymore . . . I hope it picks up some." I hope so, too.

Next Mojo made friends with a Schnauzer. I got to know the owners while they were running around at the park. We got to talking about the World Cup. I fully expected them to be rooting for Argentina.

"Heck no! We are rooting for Germany all the way tomorrow. The Argentines are way too prideful. They think they're better than everybody else."

Whether they are right about that or not, this is why I love the World Cup. Every four years we get to vent pent-up international rage on the soccer field.

Thanks, Mojo!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Retired Registrar

"Yes! My front head light blinked!"

We were both staring through an office window as both our cars were getting their safety and emissions checks.

"Why are you so excited?" I asked.

"My front blinker sometimes won't turn on and I really don't want to pay to get it fixed. But it blinked when it counted so I'm safe!"

"Sweet!" I replied. "What do you do for a living?"

"I'm a bum!" he practically shouted. "I used to work for a phone company. But they forced me to retire. So now I'm living off my retirement package. A lot of my friends had to get jobs like 2 months after we left, and I remember thinking, 'What the heck for?' I don't have a lot of money, but I love not having to go to work!"

The mechanic came in a wrote "Passed" on my form. It's so much better than seeing a giant red "FAILED" stamp.

While I don't admire his train of thought, but how he said goodbye made me laugh as I walked to my car:

"Bye! Enjoy Life!"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Artist

I decided to eat lunch on some picnic tables outside where I work. I noticed that there were three tables being occupied by three people, one per table. I honestly think that's insane. So I sat down across from a girl with a pad of paper and potato chips in her hands.

"You mind if I join you?" I asked.

"Be my guest!" she replied.

I learned that she is an artist who works in the production part of our company. She has been drawing ever since she could remember. She got into drawing because she didn't have a lot of friends. Like most kids, she had imaginary friends, but she cracked me up when she told me hers were dragons. "Imagine the weird looks from adults when I told them," she laughed.

"What do you like to draw?" I asked.

"For some reason I have gotten worse as I grow older. I remember when I was a kid I would draw everything in sight! I would just sit and draw dragons and trolls and anything I could imagine. I was so vibrant with creativity. Now it seems that as I get old, my drawing becomes less pure . . . whatever that means."

"All right, well then let's see you draw something. Right now."

She pulled out her pencil and started to sketch as we talked. After about five minutes I peeked over at the paper. There was a beautiful tree on a valley landscape with a mountain backdrop. The texture of the penciled shapes was incredible. I turned around--the picture was of the view right behind me.

"I think you've still got it."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The City Employee and the C.O.O.

The fun part about this blog is that sometimes I get to reflect a little bit on what makes people happy. The reflection started yesterday at a local burger joint called Sammy's. We went there for lunch because they have 75-cent grilled cheese sandwiches on Mondays. The food is good, but what I really like about Sammy's is the lack of tables and booths. You sit on barstools. I got to talking with a bearded older guy next to me as he wolfed down his cheese sandwich. It turns out he's a building inspector for the city.

"You know, it always seems like the people that work for the city just aren't happy," I said.

"Well, the people that work inside the offices aren't happy," he replied. "I've noticed the people who are outside doing what they love to do are the happiest ones."

I never thought I'd say this about a city-employed building inspector, but while we were talking I could tell that he honestly loved his job.

Now compare this to who I met today. He is the former Chief Operating Officer of a huge computer company. He was the first guy to come up with idea for the first ever email-calendar-schedule combination (think Outlook). He drafted his idea on a napkin for the CEO. Needless to say, he is a genius/millionaire.

"What advice do you have for anyone coming out of college like me?" I asked.

"Just be passionate about what you do," he answered. "I didn't create new computer programs for the money. That wasn't even in my head. I created it because it was exciting and fun for me. Passionate people make money. People that aren't passionate chase money."

He drew two lines on a whiteboard. Above the first line he wrote "Black" and below the second line he wrote "White." In between them we wrote "Gray."

"Successful people live in here," he said as he circled the gray area. "Lower level managers make black and white decisions. They are easy, day-to-day decisions with concrete answers. You want to live in the gray. You want to be the guy who the CEO calls when he needs a tough decision made. CEO's don't want people to tell them what they want to hear. They want people to tell them what they need to hear. Be THAT GUY."

The City Employee and the C.O.O. showed me it's not your pay-grade, but your passion that determines your happiness.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

He Who Loves His Job

This is getting addicting. If you haven't randomly met someone before I suggest you give it a shot. It's getting difficult to pick just one person to spotlight, because I am meeting so many new people per day. Today's meeting was sort of a "hail mary" shot.

"How you doin this morning?" I yelled across the street.

"Just fine!" The man said as he walked over to me. We got to talking about the World Cup and what a great run team USA is making. I learned he was a researcher in Biology at BYU.

"That's a great degree to have right now," I said. "Do you want to work for an oil company or something like that?"

"No, I wanna teach," he told me. I'm always curious about why people want to become teachers because everyone knows it's not for the money. So I asked him.

"You know how there are some jobs where you come home exhausted and, well, just plain tired of life? I do not want one of those jobs. Helping someone learn new things is such an exhilarating experience. I feel invigorated when I leave the classroom. It's a happiness you just don't find in other jobs."

Talking to him made me thankful for all my great teachers and the time they put into teaching me. Because I know it wasn't about the money, but about the high they received from watching their students succeed. So Mrs. Burgess and Mr. Gordon . . . if you're out there reading this: thanks.
thanks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Couple Next to Me

I love European-esque restaurants, but not for the food. I love them because the tables are so close together you might as well share one with the couple next to you. We ate at one of those restaurants tonight.

The waitress brought a plate of short ribs to the man next to me.

"Those look really good," I commented.

"They are amazing. My favorite thing here by far. The horseradish sauce is so creamy, and the ribs just melt in your mouth."

From this comment we started talking about everything from marriage, to SCUBA diving, the Super Bowl, good restaurants, the stock market, and new business ventures. We tried to get his wife to get SCUBA certified so she can go diving with him.

"No way," she exclaimed. "One time our family was snorkeling in Hawaii. Our son saw a moray eel, and pointed it out to us. My little 8-year old daughter started freaking out and swam back to the beach in panic! We couldn't get her to go back in the water!"

In the end, the man gave me his business card and told me if we were ever in Chicago, he knew some traders that would take us right down to the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. "All you gotta do is call me," he said. I told him if his kids ever needed a math tutor he could certainly call me.

By the way, his website is pretty cool if you happen to live in Utah. Here it is: www.screamingcoupons.com

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ms. "I Was There"

I hadn't met anyone new yet, so I decided to walk my dog. Walks are the best for meeting new people, because they are all around enjoying the same sunlight you're enjoying.

"I just got back from Chile," she said. "I was a missionary there for two years."

"Wow! Welcome home!" I replied. "I'll bet it was crazy there because of the World Cup."

"I was there when they qualified for the World Cup. Everybody watched the games in bars and got really drunk. I remember the day of the game they won to get into the tournament. People flooded into the streets dancing and singing. Everybody was hugging each other. It got so crazy we had to go home!"

Sport is the great unifier in the world, because it creates "I was there!" moments people will share for a lifetime. Like when the USA scored in the 91st minute to advance in the World Cup. Here's the reaction from Roosevelt's Atlantic Crossing Pub in Seattle:

One moment can turn a stranger into a brother. It's what The Amigo Project is all about.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Family from Arizona

One thing I love about meeting new people is the fresh perspective they offer.

"How do you feel about the new immigration law?" I asked.

"Well, I'm for the new law, but it certainly has its drawbacks. Most of the immigrants are good, hardworking people who send every penny back to their families in Mexico. Our church has seen missionary work dwindle to practically nothing, because Mexican families no longer trust white people enough to let them into their homes."

"It's hard to turn turn them away too," her husband added, "because in a way they are doing the same things our pioneer ancestors did. They are leaving their families behind and trying to make a new life for themselves. In my town, most of the illegals live in trailer homes. I've been in some, and I am amazed at how well kept and clean they are. But they drain us economically, and I can't help but notice most of the criminals on the nightly news are Hispanic."

They said the law would be better if police were only allowed to ask about their immigration status if they did a serious crime, like assault or theft. It sounded like a pretty good idea to me.

Sometimes the media tends to put Arizonans in a box labeled "Mexican Haters." But I think the majority of Arizona citizens are just like these two: honest, hard-working people trying their best to do the right thing.

That's a label I'm okay with.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Woman Who Eats Babyfood

I was waiting in line behind her to check out at the grocery store. It was 9 o'clock at night and I had a gallon of milk in my hand. I saw her take a bottle of Gerber's "Mashed Prunes" babyfood off the cashier's table and put it aside.

"Good choice," I joked. "I heard the mashed prunes are nasty."

The cashier and her started to laugh. "Ya, it's not all its cracked up to be."

"Have you tried it?" I honestly wanted to know.

"Sure I have! Every mom has that moment when she's sitting there feeding her kid mush and wonders what the mush tastes like. It's pretty much just flavored applesauce."

"Well then, what's your favorite flavor?"

Without missing a beat she said, "Banana Mixed Berries. It's my hands down favorite."

This is why I never use the self-checkout machines at grocery stores. Sure I might be able to get out of the store faster, but I wouldn't get to have such fun conversations. Plus the cashier was giving out free dumdum suckers. Bonus!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Those Neighbors

Everybody has those neighbors. You know, the ones that seem to sneak into their house every time you see them so they don't have to talk to you. The ones that live next door but you've never exchanged words with. Today I saw him walking up his steps with a handful of groceries and I thought, "That's it. I'm going to meet him." And I did.

"How you doin'?" I walked up his steps to help him get his door.

"Fine fine," he said.

It turns out he and his wife have a pretty amazing story, and I learned he's shy because he's still working on his English. Him and his wife are from Hong Kong, and they moved here about a year ago to go to school and work. He's majoring in Computer Science, and they have the cutest baby girl you've ever seen, as well as a little Jack Russell Terrier. I promised to bring them some brownies tomorrow.

"Do you like brownies?" I asked.

"Umm...I don't know," he replied. I don't think he's ever had a brownie!

I'm so happy I finally got to meet them. I hope YOU can meet those neighbors soon because chances are they're pretty interesting!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Strawberry Festival

There's nothing better than a good street fair for talking to people. I love hearing face-to-face sales pitches from the different booths. Here's some highlights from today's street fair:

"This tri-tip is so good, one time I was slicing it and a big chunk fell on the concrete. I picked it up, put it on the grill for about twenty minutes, wrapped it up on foil and took it home for dinner!"
- A man giving out samples and pitching
his "world famous" tri-tip.

"Raphael was my favorite Ninja Turtle. You know, the cynical one. Although I didn't know what cynical meant when I was seven. I just liked the color red as a kid, and Raphael had a red mask."

- Guy with a "Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles" t-shirt on.

"You shoot a ball and try to get it in the orange hoop. Haha what's it look like?"

- A carnival worker's answer when I asked
him how to play the "Pop The Balloons with
a Dart" game. Stupid questions deserve stupid answers!

"Sure! Have a Tootsie Roll Pop. We keep them here to give to kids so they don't walk around touching our windows."
- Dress shop owner about a bucket
of suckers on her cash register.
Like I said...nothing beats the street fair.

The Protesting Couple

I see the act of protesting as a microcosm for a fundamental problem in society. Today's amigos will show you why I feel that way.

My religious beliefs tend to be so polarizing that any large scale function will have its share of activists on hand protesting our beliefs and social positions. Today was no different.

"How are you two doing today?" I smiled. They were what looked like a married couple. The guy had a cowboy hat on. I got more of their story after we exchanged pleasantries.

"We are a married missionary companionship from Texas," the lady said. "We've been coming to this event every year for the last eleven years. Why do we keep coming back? Because Jesus told his disciples to be fishers of men. And since this is where the fish are every year this is where we need to be!"

The conversation was pleasant until the end when I said, "It's nice to know that even though we all have different religions we are all brothers and sisters here."

All of the sudden the woman went into attack mode. "Actually, that's not true. We are not brothers and sisters because we are not literal children of God..." She told me how my beliefs were wrong. And the wonderful feeling of meeting someone knew and connecting two more random dots in the world left.

Most protesters are so worried about being heard that they forget to listen. And therein lies the main reason for discord in the world. I'm not naive enough to believe we can smooth out all our differences, but I do believe we can communicate around those differences.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Pin Lady

As my wife and I were pulling out of Wendy's last night, I noticed an employee leaving to go home. Something caught the sunlight as she half-jogged across the street.

"Hey! Excuse me!" I yelled out the window.

She turned around to look at me.

"Yeah! Hey! Come here!"

I could tell she was a little nervous. It's not every day that a random stranger yells at you from their car window and beckons you toward them, I suppose.

"I noticed you have a ton of pins on your visor. Did you get them from work?"

A smile crept up on the outside corners of her mouth. "Oh, yes! I get pins whenever I learn how to do something at work." She tilted her head down and pointed to the mass of pins on her visor.

"Wow! You must know how to do everyting there!'

"Oh, yes! I have five other hats, too. They are all filled up with pins like this!"

"Holy cow! How long have you worked there for?"

"Eight years . . . a loooong time!"

We laughed and parted ways. I was thinking about her later on in the evening--eight years is a long time to have any job, but especially a food service job. I've worked in food service. I would know.

I so admired this woman for the amazing work ethic that she must have, and for the pride she must take in everything she does. I don't know if my future job will dole out pins, but if it does, I want to be the type of worker who'd have five hats' worth.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mr. Go With The Flow

We started talking about our jobs. He's an instructional designer and his job is to design computer software that educates students while they are entertained. It's the perfect job for him, he says, because there is the technical computer-coding side and a creative design side.

"Yup, my whole life I've found that you make plans in advance of graduating college, but it never ends up like you plan. I've learned it's best to just go with the flow and watch what opens up for you."

"How did you learn that?" I asked.

He paused. It was one of the pauses where you know the other person is remembering the past.

"I graduated with a degree in Biology. Biology ," he said. "I wanted to be a biologist or work for a pharmaceutical company. But when I left college and thought about having kids, I looked at our educational system in this state. I looked at how teachers teach and present new information. And man, let me tell you . . . they do it all wrong. They don't engage their students at all."

I sensed passion in his voice. "From that time forward I became fascinated by the teaching process--by what works and what doesn't. So I went back to school and got my Master's degree in instructional design, and now I create lessons for online education. Honestly, I couldn't be happier. I love my job."

An online educator taught me an important face-to-face lesson today. My life's path might not contain all my dreams and aspirations, but it will contain my purpose.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Neighbor

About once a week I wake up in the middle of the night to a car's loud bass blasting Mexican music (I think it's called ranchera). It's always annoyed me and I've wanted to go out there in my pajamas and give the guy a piece of my mind. I'm glad I never did.

Today I was outside with my dog when I saw a white van park across from me. Out popped an older man, his little girl, and a big lab. They parked in front of the house where the loud music comes from.

"How's it going? My name's Brock and I'm your neighbor across the street," I started as I jogged over. "I've just come over to get to know you."

He responded in broken English. "Oh, great! It's nice to know the neighbors."

"Where are you all from?"

"We are from a little city just below Tijuana, Mexico," he explained. "I came up here a year ago to work and I brought my daughters here because the schools are much better in the United States. I work at a church in Orem."

We parted with handshakes and smiles. I told him if he ever needed anything to just come and knock.

My dad always taught me you should never burn a bridge. And he's right. Instead of burning bridges with my neighbors across the street, we shook hands in the middle.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Zimbabwean

She was helping my wife pick out self-tanning lotion at the mall's make-up counter. She had blonde hair and blue eyes.

"Excuse me, but you have a tight accent. Where is it from?"

"I'm from Zimbabwe," she replied. I'd never met anybody from Zimbabwe before.

"No, way! What's it like?"

"Well there's a dictator so it's pretty corrupt and it goes through waves of crime and civil unrest. But when I've gone back I've never felt unsafe. It's beautiful there. The climate is like that of San Diego's...nice and warm all year round."

"What do you like most about it?"

"It seems like here in Utah everything is so fast-paced. It's always go-go-go. But in Zimbabwe, it's way more chill. The people are so relaxed and everybody is so nice there. When I was a kid my dad would take us on vacation to the beach where we would live like beach bums for a month. Believe me: they know how to relax in Zimbabwe."

She told us all the neat places to see and how she had been river-rafting down Victoria Falls. I left the make-up counter thinking about how big the world is and how much I haven't seen. It was so nice to get a glimpse outside of our hometown for once.

That's what's so amazing about meeting new people. You get to do things like travel to Zimbabwe--all without leaving the mall.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mrs. Deja Vu

For some reason I felt like I had met her before, yet everything about her felt so new. I met her this weekend inside of a log cabin in the mountains above Park City as big thick rain drops pummeled the tin roof.

I learned she loves drinking hot chocolate and curling up on the couch. She loves to snuggle up to you and share your blanket. She likes her bacon crispy and her eggs scrambled. She is more than happy to relax and watch movies all day. If there's brownie mix in sight, she'll cook it.

I met her again shopping. She holds up two shirts and asks me which one I like better, even though she knows I like how everything looks on her.

"Which one do you like out of these two?"

"Umm . . . the blue one." I hoped she wouldn't ask a follow up question. She did.

"Why the blue one?" She asks slyly, like she knows she's got me trapped.

"Honestly? Because it has seagulls on it," I say pointing to the white birds. "I like seagulls."

She's patient with me when I want to buy dark brown socks to go with my light khaki pants. She smiles. "Those don't work," she explains. "They are too dark for your light pants. The color of your dress socks needs to match the color of your dress pants."

I met her again when we watched the nature movie "Earth." She seemed to know the name of every waterfall or mountain that was shown along with its location. She wants to go to all these places, and has a journal where she plans a trip around the world. She has every stop and adventure listed. She likes planning it, even though she knows we might not ever afford it. She's beautiful like that.

I fell in love with her this weekend.

And then it hits me.

I had met her before. She walked into my apartment and started talking about the college football game on TV. I find it ironic that the most important conversation of my life wasn't started by me.

"Do you think we'll win?" she asked me.

"I don't think so . . . we never seem to win these games." I replied.

"That's not the attitude to have! Where's the positivity?!"

She said my kitchen was dirty and I invited her to clean it. Surprisingly, she did. I asked her on a date. Surprisingly, she accepted.

We met again two months later on a drive through Grand Junction, Colorado. We stopped at a Texas Roadhouse to eat, and with peanut shells on the floor I stammered what had been in my heart since the day I met her.

"Listen Kristi, I want to tell you a story. It's about a guy and a beautiful girl. The guy is in love with the girl, but he doesn't know how to tell her. Kristi, that guy is me, and that girl is you." There was a pause that lasted for what seemed like forever.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is . . . I love you." I was shaking. The next words out of her mouth would be make-or-break.

She looked at me calmly. "Thank you."

She honestly didn't know if she loved me back and wasn't going to tell me until she felt sure. I was grateful for that. We saw a huge falling star on the way home. I wished she would fall in love with me. She wished we would get home safely. As she likes to point out to this day, "Both of our wishes came true!"

I met her again at the spot where we'd shared our first kiss. She was bundled up for winter. I got down on one knee. I honestly don't remember what I said, but before I knew it I was holding a ring up to her with my heart thumping. She whispered, "Yes."

Kristi, my conversations with you are my most cherished memories. It's amazing to me that my life, literally my whole world, hinges on the one conversation that you started with me about a football game in my apartment. No matter who I meet for this blog, you are the only person I wake up with every morning . . .

and feel like I'm meeting for the very first time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Name Tag Maker

I've found that most people are more cheerful and happy to talk to you in the mornings. Whenever I take my dog outside early I look around to see if anybody is smiling. Today I found someone.

"Hello!" She said cheerfully.

"And where are you off to today?" I replied.

"Just going to work. I work at a business that makes name tags," she explained. "I am in charge of making all the name tags for the Mormon missionaries, and delivering them to their training center every week."

"What an interesting job! You must love what you do. What is your favorite part?"

"For me, I just love seeing them come off the rack and delivering them every week. I feel like I am part of something special."

We all want to be part of something special. I think what's most important is taking every single day and making it special. It's about giving meaning to our menial lives. Sometimes finding meaning and making meaning are the same.

To some, she's just making name tags. After listening to her talk, I know better.


I'm celebrating our third anniversary this weekend, and there won't be internet where we're going . . . I'll be back on Sunday! :)

The Fly Fisherman

I was already down when I ran into the Fly Fisherman today. I was taking a walk on a trail by our house and noticed some yellow crime-scene tape. I learned a man had brutally beaten and sexually assaulted a woman yesterday on that trail. My heart sinks when this happens. What kind of man does this to a woman? Are we really at the point where women can't walk alone? I was pondering such sad questions when I stumbled along a guy with a long fly reel and some fishing tackle.

"I didn't know the fly fishing was good down here," I said.

"Oh ya, man. It's incredible if you know what you're doing."

"Why do you like to fly fish?"

He thought for moment. "I love how complex and involved it is. With bait fishing all you do is slap a worm on the hook and toss it into the water. With this type of fishing you have to know all the different tackle. You need to find out what type of flys are hitting in that particular spot, and you have to shimmy and move your fly to make it look real, or the fish won't bite it. There's nothing better."

This guy had no idea about a quarter-mile up the trail was a crime scene of a woman's near-death, and he certainly didn't know how that crime scene affected me. But it was so refreshing to hear how he loved fly fishing for its complexities rather than its easiness.

Life is complex. Even though I don't understand why certain things happen to people, or why people do certain things to others, that doesn't mean life isn't beautiful.

We're gonna be alright.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Baller

I sat down next to him at the basketball courts while we watched the current game. He was from Texas and we talked about why he likes Dallas, the Mavericks, why they should trade Dirk Nowitzki to hit "the reset button" as he called it. He told me all about how he used to go to Huntington Beach and play volleyball at the "endless courts." It was a pretty uneventful conversation until he made an astute observation about the game.

"They just can't pass up that pull-up three," he chuckled.

I turned to the game. He was right. As I watched the game I saw player after player stop at the three point line and heave up a bomb rather than drive it to the basket for an easy layup. We laughed at how obvious it was and he said:

"Everybody wants to be a hero."

It made me think about how many times I try to "be a hero" by doing something difficult when an easier path is open. How sometimes we do things to be seen and admired by our peers rather than to contribute to the greater good.

You don't need a three-pointer to get the job done. Most of the time, there is a better way: Just take it to the rim.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Trucker

I met the Trucker as he was delivering his haul at a Sam's Club. Did you know a semi-truck going at 65 miles per hour needs about 2 football fields to stop! What was most surprising though was this trucker had a thick English accent.

"Where are you from?" I asked.

"I'm from England...Wales, actually."

"Did you come all this way to the U.S. to be a trucker?"

"Haha, no no...I came for a girl. You know, I always told myself I would never marry an American girl. They are just too mouthy. But I think I met the only non-mouthy one of the bunch! She's only mouthy about one thing: Nebraska football."

Rules I learned:
1. Never cut off a semi on the freeway.
2. Never say never.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The FSO

FSO stands for Foreign Service Officer. He had just retired after 22 years.

"Where did you serve in your job?"

"Well, I served in Fiji, Taiwan, and China just to name a few. I had my grand finale in Iraq before I retired."

"Wow! How did you get such an exciting job?"

"Actually, it was a total fluke. I was working in marketing, and my friend just came up to me one day and said, 'Hey, let's take the FSO test together!' I didn't really want to but I accepted his invitation anyways. Then, on the day of the test, I looked around and didn't see him. He had missed the test! So I took it alone and passed. Then I went on to the interviews, and they asked me crazy questions like 'If your friend's daughter was taken hostage, what would you do?' and I shrugged my shoulders and said, ''Geez, I don't know...write my congressman?'" He laughed. "I don't know how I passed."

"What was your favorite part about your job?"

"While I was growing up, I never left my old prejudices, but while my children were growing up in different countries they would introduce me to their friends. I was surprised because their friends were always Sudanese or Fijian or some other nationality. They never looked at skin color, race or language. Differences were never an issue for them. They taught me a lot."

Not bad for a career that began with a fluke.

The Landscaper

I was sitting around in the late afternoon, wondering where to go to meet somebody new. Fortunately, an opportunity presented itself in the sound of a hedge trimmer outside my front door. Today was a scorcher.

"Guys, it's blistering hot out here. You two must be thirsty. Can I bring you some water?"

They looked noticeably relieved. I brought out two huge glasses of water, and they gulped them down instantly.

"How do you like your job?" I was expecting complaints about the heat. Instead I got smiles.

"I love my job! I'm from, Mexico, and it's way hotter down there. So I enjoy working out in the heat."

"Cool! How did you land this job?"

"I used to do landscaping for another company. But my boss was constantly on our case, and he would say some pretty bad four-letter words. One day, I asked, 'Sir, why do you say such mean words? You don't have to say things like that to us.' And he replied, 'If you don't like it, then don't bother coming back tomorrow.' He fired me."

I thought about how rough the economy is. "Oh man, you must have been out of work for a while."

"No, actually, I was only without a job for three days before I found this one. It pays better, too."

Whether it's karma, luck, fate, or a loving God, meeting and talking with people has taught me one thing: If you do good, things always work out.

I gave him water on this hot and sunny day, and he gave me something even more refreshing: Hope.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Singer

I found out she was a high school senior who'd flown in last night to pass her last two tests before graduation (which was happening the next day). Sadly, she failed them both. While I was talking to her, I realized how smart she was.

"You are such a bright girl," I said. "What happened in these two classes?"

I've noticed that most of the time, students make excuses like "the test was confusing" or "the class is way to hard," but not her.

"I'm a musician, and I honestly did not do very good at balancing things in my life this past year. Between singing, piano practice, and school, I just put to much on my plate. It's nobody's fault but my own. I feel like I've let my parents down, because they work so hard for me to succeed."

"Well what do you want to do after school?" I asked.

"I really want to be a singer or an actress. My dad loves me a lot, but we fight all the time because he wants his little girl to succeed, and he thinks the only way is through science and math. But I'm just not good at it. I really like communications and I've thought about becoming a journalist! But it's hard on my dad."

We set up a plan to help her pass her classes by August so she can go to college. It seems like there's a conflict in her heart, but I know she will be successful. Why? Because she acknowledges her mistakes, and makes plans to correct them.

That's success in my book.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Cherry Picker

I got less than five hours of sleep last night and felt sick when I woke up this morning. I felt like cocooning myself for the day and not talking to anybody. I toughed it out for this blog, and I'm very happy I did.

He was changing streetlight bulbs. He was one of the happiest guys I've ever met, just smiling and laughing and cracking jokes all the time.

"How did you get this job? What was your major in college?"

"I never graduated from college. I actually started as an electrician and thought, 'Hey, I kind of like this!' So I looked for classes on electricity at a community college here. They only had one class that seemed to deal with electricity. It was called "Power Lines." I looked through the syllabus, and it looked fun, so I took the course. The only college course I took, and I loved it. I don't know why, but things just always seem to work out for me."

I asked him what made him happy.

"Me?" he says, "Lake Powell makes me happy. Just going out and sitting on the lake with my family and relaxing. It seems like all your cares just leave as soon as you hit the lake. I love the gas stations right before you hit Powell. You see the people who are going to the lake, and their faces are still a little tense from normal life. Then you see the burnt people coming from the lake, and they just have this chill look on their faces."

He let me ride in the "bucket," which is the crane that hoists you up to the top of the street lamps. I asked him if I could bring my wife to take a ride this weekend.

"Sure! You name the time and place. I'll have the truck all this weekend."

The best part was seeing his truck parked with writing on the back that says: I LOVE YOU DAD!

I said goodbye to this guy, and realized something: I'd forgotten I was sick.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Iraqi Airman

"My wife just got deployed as a member of the Army Reserves. She has been called to a one-year tour in Iraq."

"It must be pretty hard knowing you won't be able to see your wife for a year...are you nervous?"

"Well, I'm actually going to go visit her. I'm a senior pilot for Federal Express. I'm going to try to trade my normal route for a route that goes through Iraq, so I'll be able to visit her when she goes on leave."

"What's your normal route?"

"Through Hawaii...I don't think the Iraq pilot is going to have a problem trading me."

Trading palm trees and sandy beaches for a barren war zone. Now that's true love.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Great-Grandma

I was about fifteen minutes early for a meeting, so I started talking with the secretary, a 70 + woman named "Faye." The subject got on kids, and I asked her, "Do you have any kids?"

Her eyes got really wide, and she told me about her six kids, thirty-five grandchildren, and forty-one great-grandchildren. One story stuck out.

"I went to my granddaughter's wedding a week ago--you won't believe what happened! Her fiance's brother told him the day before that his mother wanted to speak to him. So, he left to meet her and his family kidnapped him, because they didn't want him to get married! Well, he convinced his brother that he needed to go back to his house to get his clothes. The next day, while his brother was waiting outside, him and my granddaughter snuck out the back door and left through back streets. They got to the temple, where we all were waiting, and got married."

"He said, 'Honey, I had to make a choice between my family and you, and I choose you.'"

Her eyes welled up with tears with how proud she was of both of them. Right then the phones started to ring, and she had to get back to work.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mr. Heinz 57

The sign as you drive in to Rock Springs, Wyoming reads: "Welcome to Rock Springs. Home of 56 nationalities."

I did some detective work to find out exactly how they came to that number. So I asked a friendly manager at Wendy's as we waited for our food.

"I have no idea," he replied. "It must be something to do with the census."

I was satisfied with that answer, so I asked him which of the 56 nationalities he represented.

"Me? I'm Heinz 57!"

"I don't get it..."

"Well, I'm like Heinz 57 steak sauce. There are 57 ingredients on Heinz 57, and I'm pretty sure I have 57 different types of blood in me. I'm part English, part Swedish, with a little bit of Dutch thrown in...and a bunch of other stuff."

I think they should change the sign to read: "Welcome to Rock Springs. Home of Heinz 57."

The Dukie

I was going to post this last night, but the internet wasn't working. So here it is...Sunday's Amigo.

"Oh, so you're from North Carolina! Are you a big Tar Heels fan?"

He gave me a look mixed with surprise and disgust. "Heck no! Far from it. I'm a Blue Devil fan through and through!" He lifted up his wrist and showed me his watch with a Blue Devil in the center. I know there is a huge rivalry between North Carolina and Duke...people actually camp out six weeks in advance of their basketball game to buy tickets. I've always wondered...if you live in North Carolina, how do you choose between Duke and NC? I posed the question.

"For me it was easy. I had a brain tumor and was going to die, but the doctors at Duke performed brain surgery and saved my life. So I've always liked Duke. I guess I traded my life for allegiance," he joked.

I don't think I've heard a better reason to like a sports team.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sailing Seniors

I went to a department store with my wife because she needed to return some things. Usually, if I know my wife is going to take a while at the register, I will start a conversation with the people behind me. After a couple of minutes of talking, we become friends, so they aren't mad when the cashier takes forever. Today I looked at the couple behind us and said to the guy:

"Is your wife making you lug everything around today like I am?"

He laughed. "I didn't want to come. But she made me to pick out these shirts. I guess I owe her for living with me on a sailboat for two years."

Hahaha...what?

"My wife and I spent two years living on a sailboat, just sailing up the East Coast. We started in Florida and headed north."

"So, what brings a couple of sailors to the mountains?" I asked.

The woman perked up. "Well, I was born and raised here...he convinced me to go sailing for two years, so we lived on the boat for two years and one month. Then, when we were done, he owed me a favor, so I said, 'Honey, I want to live in a house, and I want it to be by the mountains.' So we bought a house here."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mr. Mom at the Park

I met him and his three-year old son at a park. First off, he has the most interesting job I've ever heard. You know the shapes and cuts of jewelry, like diamonds and what not? Well, he programs the little mechanical arms of the cutters to cut the correct shape.

While we were talking, his son saw this kid who had a cool hat with a propeller on top. When flyboy wouldn't give him the helicopter hat, he picked up sand from the sandbox and threw it in his face! His dad reprimanded him. But then his son got pushed over by another kid... and he just stood there and "let his son deal with it."

"When I was a kid," he told me, "me and my friend would sit across from each other with army-hats on. We would take our toy soldiers and put them in the middle, and then throw rocks at them. One day, a bigger kid walked up and took my hat. I didn't know how to respond. I tried to ignore him, but he kept taunting me with it. So I walked up to my dad and asked him what I should do. 'Son,' he replied, 'I don't care what you do. Just don't come back to me without your hat.' So, about five minutes later, I came back with a black eye and my hat on my head. Then he took me to McDonald's."

In the days of helicopter moms and dads, it's nice to see some parents still use the good old "figure it out on your own" method.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Mechanic

Today, as I was buying two new tires for my car, a guy walked in to the shop looking for work.
They told him they were hiring...but he would had to shave his huge beard. I asked him how long he'd been growing it.

"Since I was 16," he said. "It's kind of sad having to shave it off, but with the way the economy is right now, I don't have a problem with it. You gotta do what you gotta do."

Then I heard them tell a older woman she would have to wait forty-five minutes for a tire rotation.

"Forty-five minutes!" I said. "What are you gonna do for forty-five minutes?"

We ended up chatting away. She's very excited because her daughter and son-in-law are going to Las Vegas for their anniversary this weekend, and she gets to watch her almost-two-year old granddaughter. She told me about her three kids, and I was so happy to hear how proud she is of them, and how much she loves their spouses.

Then I took my car over to get an oil change, and decided to talk it up with the mechanic. I asked him to teach me how to change the oil...and he did! We laughed over the fact that he is teaching me how to do something that I would pay him to do otherwise. He told me about his family, and we discussed faith, and how important the family is. I left him not only wanting to take better care of my truck, but also to take better care of my wife.

Look around you...there is always a vehicle for a good conversation. For me today, that vehicle was my car.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mr. Small World

It's amazing how small the worlds gets when you talk to people around you. Consider this conversation I had today with a guy I met at a travel center.

"I'm from Huntington Beach," I responded to his question.

"Huntington Beach??? I proposed to my wife at Huntington Beach about 30 years ago!" he said surprised. "I was living up in Washington, and was going to propose to fly her out to Virginia Beach to propose. But, at the last minute, there was a massive storm...so I said 'How about we spend the weekend in California?' She loves the beach, so we were laying there on the sand and I asked her to marry me!"

Then, a woman in the office looked over.

"Did you say you were from Huntington Beach? I'm from Laguna!" she asked.

"Oh my gosh...I used to date a girl from Laguna! Her name was Sarah ____!"

Her eyes got wide. "I know her and her family!"

Three people...one building...a storm...a connection 30 years in the making. How amazing is that?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Busboy

Conversation can start over so many things. Today, it started because of leftover pickles.

My wife and I decided to splurge and grab some fast food for dinner tonight (okay, okay, I'll admit it...we had a gift card). After ordering, I walked up to an open booth, but somebody hadn't cleaned up their pickles. A busboy cut me off and wiped the table clean for me. I tapped him, on the shoulder and said,"Hey, thanks a lot man."

He looked back at me, and I could tell not a lot of people say that to him. We talked for a little bit, and I found out he had worked as a busboy for the same restaurant in Santa Clarita, CA. That's how he landed the job here (there were about 1,000 applications when the store opened). We got our food and started to eat.

About a half an hour later, we got up and walked out the door. Suddenly, from across the restaurant, we heard someone yell "Thanks for coming in! It was nice to meet you!" We turned back and saw our busboy there smiling.

We can make someone's day with a simple "Thank you." Even if it's just thanking him for doing his job.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Woman Who Stares At Goats

"How can a goat be a pet?" I wondered when she told me she had two pet goats.

Then I saw her interact with them. She petted them, played with them, and held them. And these goats treated her like their mom, but that wasn't the only reason she loved them. It turns out their manure actually helps plants to grow, and they'll eat every single weed in your yard. But what impressed me most was when she said, "They are also great for the community. I love having all the neighborhood kids come over to see and pet the goats. It really brings the neighborhood closer together."

She has gotten all her neighbors to sign a petition and send letters telling the city council to let her keeps the goats, citing how it's doing the community a service rather than being a burden.

In her words: "I just see too many kids living their lives in a virtual reality filled with video games and the computer. I want to have these goats to show these kids: this is real life! This is nature! I want to show them goat's milk and say 'See! Milk doesn't come from a store! It comes from living, breathing animals!'"

I admire her fight. With video games, the internet, and television destroying the sense of community in out neighborhoods, she has found a secret weapon to combat it. Farm animals...who knew?

PS: At the time of this writing, both goats are pregnant and should deliver soon. I wish you the best of luck, Goat Woman!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mr. Airport Shuttler

I knew it was going to be a busy day today what with church, dinner at my aunt's house, and the massive four-hour series finale of "LOST." So I got out meeting people early. I took my dog out for a walk, and spotted a guy combing his hair as he walked to his car.

"Don't worry man, your hair looks great!"

He just smiled. I could tell he probably didn't speak much English. It looked like he had just gotten out of bed. Then I saw his car: an airport shuttle van. I asked him how business was going.

"Good!" he said. "I'm running 24 hours a day."

He hadn't just gotten out of bed...he had just gotten in bed. I can't imagine working 24 hours a day, sleeping only when you can.

After meeting him, I don't just enjoy my 7-8 hours of sleep per night...I'm thankful for it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

DJ Furniture Salesman

I took my dog to the park today, and he started playing with a brown lab. I got to talking with the owner.

"Yeah, my friend and I are starting a modern furniture store in South Salt Lake in August. I just got a $250,000 loan."

I commented that he must be feeling the pressure, but he just smiled and said, "Actually, the hardest part so far has been creating the business plan. They have to be so detailed!"

It was interesting to see a guy who looked my age aspiring to be a furniture salesman. I asked him if he wanted to be a furniture salesman for his entire life.

"Nah, it's just a good way to make money, but what I really want to go into music. I'm a house and techno DJ, and I just sent a couple of demo tapes into some producers, but I haven't heard anything from them."

Nothing stopped this guy from writing a business plan, and getting a $250,000 bank loan for a furniture business, and I don't see discouragement stopping him from a music career either. Like he said he told his friend, "I told her, no one can stop you from doing anything you want to do."

But here's the most amazing part: I learned that this all got started after his friend got fired as a RN, and he inspired her to stand on her own two feet and make something happen. He is partnering with her to help her start this business. I hope their business succeeds, but even if it doesn't, he will be successful.

Anytime you do something to help another, you are a success. No matter what.

The Popsicle Thief

I knocked on my friend's door. I didn't recognize the guy who opened it. He was licking a Popsicle. We got to talking about...well...whatever.

"Yeah, my cousins aren't home...I just came by to visit them for a second."

"And it looks like you came by to steal a Popsicle too." I joked.

He gave me a sheepish grin. I'd caught him red-handed. I found out later that after our chat he called his cousin and confessed to having eaten a Popsicle.

This is short because I got a question today I want to answer. Here it is:

Question: "I recently read your blog. Yesterday, I was on a run when I noticed a man sitting Indian-style on the pavement reading a book. What made this man interesting was that he was outside his car reading on the ground, right next to a freeway. There was a lovely little park within 50 feet of him, and a library about a block away. I really wanted to know what, and why, he was reading like that, but I didn't know what to say. I thought to myself...'What would The Amigo say?'...How would you start a conversation with him?"

Answer: In most cases, the best way to start a conversation is by asking the other person something about what he is doing. People love to talk about themselves. In this particular case, I would have asked, "Excuse me, but can I ask what book you are reading?" I've noticed people love to talk about the books they read, because they feel intelligent. I would then asked if he liked it and why. Then, after we have established "likability", I might move on to something like..."Why did you decide to read right here on the side of the road...you know there's a park close by?"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Cookin' Coach

The heavenly smell of Bar-B-Que smoke filled my nostrils when I met The Cookin' Coach. Dressed in shorts, a button up shirt, and a camouflage JEEP hat, he had his tongs in hand--the master of his domain. He is a little league tee-ball coach who took his team to the park to fill up on hot dogs, beef, and grilled onions. We chatted over flipping burgers.

"When I'm not a coach, I broker insurance...a lot of different stuff," he told me. He slapped on some cheese and flipped the onions. "I realized a few year ago that I just can't do 9 to 5." He grabbed a paper plate and unloaded about five hamburgers. "I'm not built that way...so I just work on my own and do whatever comes along!"

I was reminded of a quote by Yann Martel: "A tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he's not careful."

A lot of people might say The Cookin' Coach has it all wrong. Maybe you should work your way up the corporate ladder and run in the rat race everyday.

But it's hard to argue with how happy he looked: A tee-ball coach, dishing hot-dogs to pint-sized players in the park on a beautiful Thursday evening. Suddenly, a call came from the food table.

"I think we need a few more hot dogs!"

The Cookin' Coach yelled. "Perfect! I've got about eight sitting here on the grill."

...Perfect.

The Dental Hygienist

I met a Dental Hygienist today, and finally asked the one question I've always wanted to ask the people who clean my teeth.

"Do you guys ever play and pranks on the dentists?"

"Oh sure...I remember one time we surprised the dentist with his favorite cookie--Oreos. But before we gave him them, we ripped open the package, took out the cream filling from each Oreo, and then filled them all with toothpaste!"

That's perfect: A cookie and a cleaning, all in one bite!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Little Arsonist

The Little Arsonist is about seven years old, and on Sunday, he was playing with fire in the basement of his home. He lit a piece of paper with a lighter, and then put the paper in his drawer. Sadly, the drawer was made of wood, so one whole room of the basement went up in flames. I asked the cute little kid what he did when he saw the fire.

"The fire got really big, so I went over to my friends house and played games."

Trying to hold back a laugh, I asked "Will you ever play with fire again??"

"No."

"Why not?" I was expecting him to say something like "I almost burned my house down."

"Nah...it's no fun."

I love kids. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Fireman

Today I learned something amazing about somebody. I was talking to a fireman, and asked him whether he became a fireman because of the good retirement benefits.

"No, it had nothing to do with money. Before this, my brother and I were actually pretty successful builders and realtors. We built a bunch of homes up in north Orem. We also built the Omni Dance club building....but then one night as I was laying in bed, I was thinking that, one day, I'm going to be really old. And I am going to look back on my life and think, 'What have I done for society? Is being a realtor all I've done? What was I going to tell my grandkids? At that moment, I changed careers and became a firefighter. I see it as a way of giving back, and when I old, I will be proud to say I served my community as a firefighter."

After we parted, I sat in my car for a while and wondered what will be my legacy? Will I be able to look back on my life and be proud of my service to others and my contribution to society?

I made the decision, then and there, that I would do everything in my power to make my future kids proud of their old man.

PS: He told me a pretty funny joke about how people love firefighters and don't like police. Here it is: How do you tell the difference between a firefighter and a cop? When people wave at firefighters, they wave with their whole hand. :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Junior

"Dude, I like those sunglasses! What kind are they?"

Shades looks up from the bulletin board he is reading. He is a huge Tongan guy.

"Oh, I don't know, they were cheap. My eyes suck without them. I bought them in San Diego...I came here last night."

"And what brings you here from San Diego?"

"Oh, I'm just here visiting my family."

I didn't learn a single thing from this guy...but who cares? It was fun to talk to him and I made a new friend. Plus it's not everyday you meet a huge Tongan guy named "Junior."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Wise Sage

"Hey, what does your hat say?" I asked.

He turns it around. "Oh, it just says ____ Bank Finance Division."

"So, are you in finance?"

"I've been a financial planner for over 30 years. I started at ____ Bank, but then moved on to greener pastures."

I asked him what it takes to be a good financial planner.

"Here's the thing. Like in every business, there are people who work hard at what they do, and they make a lot of money. There are people who are just okay, and they do all right. There are people to don't work hard, and they get out of the business...fast. In the beginning, you make mistakes, and you lose your clients a lot money. But after about three months, you either learn or quit."

Work hard, do well. Just work, do okay. Don't try, quit. Pretty simple.

Another AMIGO!

This is a story from one of you. Thanks for the great response!

This blog inspired me to get out of my shell and get to know those around me. Here is my story:

The other day my wife and I were shooting hoops when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flying disc in a grassy field.

Then quicker than snot on a donkey another similar disc landed within 5 feet of the other at breakneck speed. Curious, I walked over, sure to avoid any other airborne instruments of death or at least internal bleeding.

I was met by a guy named Rusty whose name definitely does not reflect his Disc Golf skills. Also a resident of my apartment complex, Rusty has been a Disc Golf aficionado for the past year and a half and started in his native North Carolina.

He taught me how to throw like the pros do and the right way to aim. I never would have searched the internet for that knowledge but now I am glad I have it.

With the dimming sun and growing mosquito populaion as an audience, Rusty and I parted. I came away with the same feelings I had after meeting someone new on my mission, appreciation.

Thanks again for contributing the The Amigo Project!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The High School Sweetheart

"How long have you been married?" I asked him.

"Well, we got married in October, but we've been together for 9 years," he replied.

"That must mean you've been dating since high school!" I exclaimed.

"Yup, we met in a class in high school, and we wanted to wait until we were both graduated from college to get married. She's awesome."

In a day where passion is mistaken for love and cheating is plaguing our society, it's nice to see true, committed love still exists. Congratulations to The High School Sweetheart on your marriage, and thanks for reminding us that "and they lived happily ever after" isn't just for fairy tales.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Daughter

"Why are you taking a math class if you've already graduated college?" I asked The Daughter. She smelled of smoke.

"Listen, I'm 28, my psychology degree was worthless soI don't have a job, and I live in a house my parents own. In order for me to be able to teach in Utah, I need my teaching license. And I have to take this class to get it."

She explained she lives in a big home in an expensive resort town. She skis everyday...doesn't have to pay for anything. As she explained: "It's daddy's money."

It seemed like she had the perfect life.

"What a set-up," I said.

"Yeah, it's nice, but I need to break away. I'm sick of living off my parents...ya know?"

Independence is something we naturally crave. Whether we're 10 years old and want the freedom to our bikes to a gas station for a Slurpee, 16 and want the freedom to drive ourselves to prom, 28 and want the freedom to live on our own, or 88 and want the freedom to live on our own.

I hope The Daughter succeeds in transitioning into that next phase of independence. And if she needs someone to tend that resort house, she can call me up any time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Insurance Salesman

The Insurance Salesman is obviously a well-off man, about the age of 60-70. He owns his own office building, and has many clients. But he's only been in the industry for seven years.

"What did you do before this?"

"I've had five careers!" he exclaims.

"Well, which was your favorite?"

"My first career, when I was a farmer for 20 years! I loved being a farmer, but I couldn't support a family, and the business is very hard. When you're not farming, you're trying to find buyers for your product and haggling prices. The time commitment was hard on my family, so I switched. Now, I own five businesses."

If at first you don't succeed... :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Politician's Wife

Today I met the wife of a local politician. When I met her, she was standing in front of her torn-up lawn in the rain, with two of her kids playing in the mud.

I asked her what the hardest part about being a politician's wife is--expecting it to be something like "Everybody hates you." Instead, she said, "Actually, the hardest thing about being in politics is time. When my husband's not at work, he is at meetings...pretty much every weekend. So, on Saturday, instead of daddy playing ball with the kids, mommy is out there playing ball with them."

Noticing her torn-up lawn, I commented, "I see you've had some lawn issues..."

She told me her husband did something at a political meeting that other members didn't like, so they wrote an obscene word across her front lawn with laundry soap. She found it on Mother's Day morning.

I began to wonder how many times do I say things that might hurt others? How many times do I forget that each person is unique and loved by God? And suddenly, I realize: I write on lawns with laundry soap, too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Financier

I met the Head of Finance for a large company today. He had the most beautiful pictures on the walls of his spacious office. Amazing portraits from all over the world. I asked him how he got to the position he is in.

"I started working at this company 15 years ago, when I was 15 years old, just doing computer stuff. I received more and more responsibility, and found I have a knack for finance."

I was so impressed at the dedication and hard-work that paid off for this man. I was also impressed at the beautiful art on his wall. I asked where he got them.

"Actually, I photographed all of these," he replied. "I do photography on vacations, and have taken pictures all over the world." These are all his photographs.

Thanks for teaching me a valuable lesson: Your life's work might revolve around money, but your life must revolve around something better.

To The Financier: Thanks for the photographs! You have an amazing talent.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Check Maker

The Check Maker works for a company that manufactures personal checks. I asked him what was the funniest personalized-check request he'd ever received.

"Probably this guy who made us write 'You're in America...now speak English' on the top of all his personal checks. I mean think about it--he is racially insulting the person he is giving both his name, address and checking account number to!"

Hilarious!

"The biggest mess up I've ever seen is when a lady called in and asked that her personal checks have the word 'Mrs. So-and-so' printed as her name. She ended up with checks that said 'Mistress So-and-so.' Needless to say, she was furious!"

Laughing at someone's funny story turns them into a hero for a second. In conversation, the most important thing is to make the other person feel important.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Green Thumb

Today I woke up early and did some service planting flowers for our city. I stopped and chatted with the man giving orders.

"You must love to plant flowers!"

He said he oversaw the entire city irrigation system, which is pretty cool. So I asked him how he got to that position.

"About 27 years ago, I bought a lawn mower and started mowing lawns. I guess I did a good job, because a couple of years later the city hired me to mow lawns. Now I'm the head of irrigation."

He saw I was impressed, so he told me more.

"Check this out: I can turn any sprinkler system on or off from the computer in my office."

This man started with nothing but a lawn mower and work ethic, and now he's runs the irrigation system of a 100,000+ person city.

Thanks, Green Thumb, for teaching me a valuable lesson: It doesn't matter what you do, but how you do it.