I found out today that someone who I know through work has stage 4 cancer. I'll call her Sally.
We aren't terribly close. I'm not even sure I know her last name without looking in my email address book.
However, she has played a fairly important role in my life.
When I first started in my current career, she worked for our divisional office. In a field of largely alpha males, she always gave me a wink and a smile. She helped me out. She helped me succeed. We both were from Ohio and she took me under her wing. If I needed a report, it was moved to the top of the pile. Girl power.
When she was laid off, I went to the divisional vice president and told him I thought they had chosen the wrong person. She laughed, told me not to worry, she would be fine. She was.
About 5 years later, she returned to our firm and started working for a group of advisors in different office. She is excellent. My interactions were limited to a few polite calls as she patched me through to the other advisors, but we always took a few minutes to catch up. Just last week I told my business partner as we started to interview people-- "I want to hire someone like Sally."
She was always happy. Upbeat. Positive. Kind. Always willing to lend a hand.
I don't know that I've ever told her that.
When I was growing up, our neighbor across the street, Mr. Wheeler was always there. He taught me how to play tennis. If I got locked out, I would wait at his house. He and his wife always had a popsicle for us on hot days. Every day when I came home from high school, we'd chat for a few minutes at the mailbox.
On "Decision Day"- back in the day when colleges notified you via giant envelopes in the mailbox- I came home after school to check, before my waitressing shift started. It was a little earlier than I normally would have been home. but there was Mr. Wheeler waiting for our daily chat. I had applied to Cornell and he knew it. I didn't realize he knew it was "the day." He was the first person to find out I got accepted. Then he surprised me-- he had learned the alma mater and started to sing it to me.
When he passed away my sophomore year in college I was overwhelmed with sadness-- had I ever told him how much his friendship meant to me? I'd like to think he just knew.
I think about the smaller roles that so many people have played in my life- from the receptionist at the Y who smiles every day, the checker at the grocery store who asks me what I'm making with the odd produce that I buy, the manicurist who remembers me every time I go in- even though it's only 2-3 times a year, the dog groomer who felt terrible when she accidentally shaved my dog, the woman I sat next to for a year in spin class way back then who always saved me a spot-- those are the people who are truly the icing on the cake. The extras, so to speak, in the screenplay of my life.
And I'm always happy to find that I, too, play a role in their lives. Sometimes I feel like I lead a fairly invisible existence to any one outside my family. I don't. I'm their Mr. Wheeler.
When my husband went to the grocery store with the kids, the checker commented on how great the kids were, what a good mom I am and how I'm always so cheerful. She enjoyed when I came in. Really? Someone noticed?
When I helped a client whose wife had passed away, he shared how he and his wife always looked forward to seeing me-- I was a part of their routine. They'd go to lunch, after we'd meet- I was a part of their lives.
Or when people comment on how much they like to read my blog- it makes me happy. I'm not changing anyone's life, but I'm making them smile. Maybe I change the outlook of their day?
Some days the world seems like a huge, isolated place, but in reality, it's not. We all are a part of so many people's lives and we don't even realize it. This year I said I would be more grateful. Today I am grateful for the back up singers, the extras, the people in the supporting roles- whatever you call them- I'm glad they round out my life.
So on the days when you are feeling lonely, don't. You may be someone's Mr. Wheeler or Sally and not even know it.