He saw that all the struggles of life were incessant, laborious, painful, that nothing was done quickly, without labor, that it had to undergo a thousand fondlings, revisings, moldings, addings, removings, graftings, tearings, correctings, smoothings, rebuildings, reconsiderings, nailings, tackings, chippings, hammerings, hoistings, connectings — all the poor fumbling uncertain incompletions of human endeavor. They went on forever and were forever incomplete, far from perfect, refined, or smooth…yet, in the way of things, somehow noble, complete, and shining in the end.”
-Jack Kerouac:The Town and the City (1950)
My grandpa was a shop owner in Natrona Heights, a small town outside of Pittsburgh. He reupholstered furniture and was a true craftsman. In his free time he perfected his golf swing and would be happy to show you his form if you asked. I think of him on days when it’s rainy and picture him sitting in his shop, working with fabrics and nails. I bet customers came back just as much for his kindness as they did his talent. I took photos of him sewing during his last visit to Ohio. Afterwards, I sat at the table and showed him some of my travel photos. Between his raspy oohs and aahs, he patted me on the back and smiled with squinty eyes. He made everyone feel good. And important.
Yesterday, my brother recommended I watch the Kevin Durant MVP acceptance speech. After watching, I had to listen again – and even wrote down some of the things he said. He spoke thoughtfully (and emotionally) about the people that helped him along the way, singling out every teammate, friend and family member. “Your spirit, your smile, means a lot,” he said to one teammate tearfully. Thanks for “giving me the confidence when I didn’t have it… for being there for me when I call,” he said to another. He told the audience humbly, I had so much help and failed so many times. Durant would not accept the award without making sure each person knew what they meant to him. He wanted them to feel good and feel important. Even if it meant failing to choke back tears. Most the media called it a love-fest; a man pouring his heart out at a podium these days happens to be noteworthy when it really should be more normal.
This speech, and thinking of my Pap, made me reflect on how oftentimes we don’t create enough moments to express how we really feel about the people we love. We don’t want to come across being overly emotional or sounding “mushy.” When was the last time you said “I just want you to know how much it means to me that you are here, in my life, just being you,” to someone that influences your daily life. Perhaps, this is how greeting cards were born. They create a space for us to express as little or as much of our love and appreciation, without an outward emotional response that may, to some, seem uncomfortable or untimely.
I spoke to my brother on his birthday this week. We spoke about work, his kids, the weather, even what his next birthday celebration should be, could be, would be. I didn’t say anything from my heart and I thought about it when I hung up. I will just write it in his card, I thought to myself. The lesson is, we need to start saying these things more – vocally, outwardly, and in the moment – to the people we love. We don’t need a podium, celebration, or MVP speech to do so. Just give out more snaps, as I call them. Meaning, tell people what you love about them, what you appreciate, what you notice. Acknowledge their struggles. Reveal what they’ve taught you. Open your heart, speak from your heart, extend your heart. Even if it means shedding a tear or two and making it awkward. BE AWKWARD! Why does showing emotion have to be a sign of weakness? In the case of Kevin Durant, people walked away saying what a great guy, what a great leader, and the video was shared all over social media.
I wish so much I would have looked my Pap in the eyes, held his hand, and told him I love you so much, I know we didn’t see each other often when I was growing up, but you are one of my favorite people in the world and you make me want to be a kinder, gentler, better person. I wish that when I visited my Gram before she passed, that I would have grabbed her hand, told her not to be scared, and to know she was loved. I wish I told her that I know her childhood was hard, but that her strength was one of the most wonderful things about her. I wish I would have thanked her for giving me my own mother and told her all the reasons I felt she should be proud of her daughters. But I didn’t, because in those moments it didn’t “seem right.” And then the moment was gone. The lesson is to follow our hearts, to not care what people think or who overhears you, to say exactly what we mean and what our heart feels, to be open and honest, to refrain from editing ourselves all the time, to show our love more, and to seize every moment we can to express our gratitude towards others. Simply put, don’t let those moments go – use them as thoughtful opportunities to make someone feel good, feel important and to share what is beautiful in your heart. Everyone deserves to know.
Below is a video my cousin took of his daughter, Colbi, showing my Pap the fabric she picked out for a pillow he planned to make her. How wonderful!