I’ve a slightly long and convoluted story to tell you today, but if you stick with it I hope you’ll agree it has true value.
Where we begin is that I’m currently experimenting with tracking my mood each day in a new way, and my daily scores are being automatically texted to my friend Josh down in Los Angeles.
The idea is for us both to get a feel for how this process works.
What’s it like for me to know there’s someone with access to my state of mind?
And what’s it like for him to have this information?
So, on Tuesday this week – just a couple of days ago – Josh noticed my score had dropped a little.
The dip was nothing like my lows of times gone by, but it was enough of a change from the previous day’s for Josh to feel the need to ask what was going on.
My answer to him was that I’d simply become a bit overwhelmed with thinking about the major project that’s preoccupying me at the moment.
That’s when Josh decided to give me a dose of my own medicine, in the nicest possible way, by texting “Maybe take a nice long walk through the trees today?”
Ordinarily I might have replied by saying “too much to do, can’t afford the time.”
But the nudger considered himself nudged.
And in the spirit of going along with the idea to see where it went, I packed up my laptop at 3pm and just an hour later was at a local park – the kind of American park with Redwood trees, streams, muddy trails, and horseback riders.
I figured I’d give myself an hour, so set off up one of the trails, quickly grateful to have got away from my desk.
Around 20 minutes into the forest, and having got a bit out of breath, I came across a wooden bench – the only one of its kind in the park, I think (I’ve been to this particular park several times before).
So I sat for a few minutes gazing out at the stunning view across the San Francisco bay, then something made me swivel around to read the metal plaque on the back of the seat.
Beneath the name of the gentleman whose memory it honours, were the words “Tough, Loyal, A True Hero – My Dad,” and the date on which he had passed away: March 7th, 2007.
But wait, March 7th?
That was today.
And I realised with a start that I was sitting on a bench in a very quiet park, exactly ten years to the day that this gentleman had died.
Which is where the story, I hope, has its value.
You see, sitting there, it occurred to me that I’d like to find a way to let his family know that I’d been thinking about their relative, even though I’d never met him.
I got back to my car, Googled the broad details of the bench plaque, and quick as a flash found a short biography – and an email address for a family member.
I could drop this relative a line.
But as I drove home, the old voice of discouragement kicked in.
Might be a bit intrusive.
Perhaps there are other things I should be focusing on.
That’s when I consciously decided to ignore those thoughts.
I told myself that I should follow my heart rather than my head.
If I’d been inspired to reach out, then that’s what I should do.
So I composed a brief, hopefully respectful, email and sent it off – thinking that would probably be the end of the matter.
The next day, however, I was thrilled to get a reply saying that it was “good to know that he is recognized and remembered. I am sending your unique letter on to the family.”
My correspondent did indeed forward my email to a dozen others, one of whom then wrote some very warm words to me herself.
In fact it was she who’d had the bench placed in the park, in memory of her Dad – as the plaque said.
Of course it was a complete coincidence that I happened to look at the plaque’s words on Tuesday, the ten-year anniversary.
But I was so close to not sending the email, so close to dismissing it as a silly idea.
But I’m so glad I did.
I’m telling you about this chain of events not – please – in any way to blow my own trumpet, but simply to sow a seed for you.
The next time you have a chance to make some small gesture yourself, but your head tells you no, please do consider following your heart.
Seemingly small actions can sometimes create ripples, and every now and then those ripples can become waves.
The world can feel a cold, cruel place at times – but we all have the power to warm things up a little.
When you have such an opportunity, please grasp it with both hands.