Thank you. That is the purpose of this column. I want to say “thanks.” I don’t know you, but I believe in the good you do. Especially right now.
In public, I used to see you sometimes and think to myself: “I wish someone would thank them.” But I never do because if I did, you’d think I was a complete nut job.
Maybe I am a nut job. But I’m allowed to be that way. After all, I am a columnist—sort of—and that means my proverbial box is missing a few crayons.
Long ago, I used to deliver newspapers with my mother. We used to deliver to a fella who would answer the door in pajamas. He had messy hair and a bushy white beard. He always gave me a five-dollar tip.
He was generous. If he wasn’t home one day, he would pay me ten bucks the next day. He was a columnist, my mother told me. And that’s why he was such a weirdo in weird pajamas. Even his house smelled weird.
I suppose I ought to thank him while I am at it.
Also, thanks to the man I saw in the gas station who bought a lottery scratch-off ticket. Who won thirty bucks, then turned around and gave the cash to a woman behind him in line. What a guy.
The woman thanked him in a language that sounded like Russian, but he didn’t seem to understand, so he answered: “Alright.”
Thank you, Cindy—the woman who translated one of my speeches in American Sign Language for the front row. She told me I talked very fast and now she has problems with her rotator cuff.
She also taught me how to cuss in sign language.
Thank you to the seventy-year-old man who went back to school to get his GED. And his forty-six-year-old daughter, who tutored him.
And you. You deserve thanks, but you don’t always get it. In fact, you rarely even get a nod.
That’s a shame. You deserve the same tiara they put on Miss America. You deserve something huge like a mid-size SUV, or pony named Silver, or an RV with slide-outs, or a big plate of spaghetti with garlic bread.
You deserve money, fame, and material things. But then, you would never accept them. I know how you are.
Everything you do is outside the spotlight, and I don’t want to screw that up for you. That’s why I am not going to use your name—except Cindy. I already used Cindy’s name, and I can’t take that back now.
You deserve a helping of gratitude. Why, if I had a million dollars, I would give it all to you. Every penny. I wouldn’t keep a dime for myself.
Certainly, I might use some to buy season tickets to the Atlanta Braves, but that would be it. Also a monster truck. But then you would get the rest.
I would give it to the man I saw in Cracker Barrel. He only had the use of his right hand. He piloted his motorized wheelchair through the full dining room, and his children stayed near him.
His oldest daughter fed him with a spoon. She dabbed his chin with a napkin. They all laughed, they messed around. They were beautiful.
That family deserves a million bucks.
So does the woman who raised me on hard circumstances, hard work, and tossing newspapers on cold mornings.
So does the man with the speech impediment who works for the cable company. The man has every right NOT to be in customer service, but he has chosen to overcome his obstacle.
Your waiter. Your supermarket clerk. Your teacher. Your janitor. The average fella who waits in line at a gas station to buy a scratch-off ticket but doesn’t want the winnings.
Long ago, a man once handed me five bucks while I stood on his porch, delivering his newspaper. It happened to be my birthday that day.
He said: “Are you having a good day, son?”
“Yessir,” I said. “It’s a great day today, it’s my birthday.”
His face lit up. The nutty man looked like he was going to burst. He told me to wait on the porch. He darted away then reappeared with a tiny wooden box. He gave it to me.
In the box was a pen. I don’t know if it was expensive or not, and I don’t care. To me, it was worth more than a million bucks.
“Thank you for all that you do,” the columnist said to me.
And now this columnist is saying it to you.