I am camping. It’s cold outside. I am about to freeze.
The elderly people in the campsite beside me are from Pittsburgh. Mary and Herbert are their names.
Mary has white hair. She wears a pink sweatshirt and Velcro tennis shoes.
Herbert has two hearing aids, no hair, and he wears a khaki jumpsuit—the kind auto mechanics wear.
Herb putters around his campsite all day, doing things that don’t actually need doing. Like picking up pinecones and tossing them into the woods.
I wave to Herbert on my way to take my morning shower in the bath house.
“Have a nice day!” I call to him.
He smiles. “Nope!” he says. “Haven’t seen him!”
“I said, ‘Have a nice day!’”
“When was that?”
This is getting me nowhere. So, finally I shout, “HAVE A NICE DAY, HERB!”
He smiles. “Dangest thing! Haven’t seen any of those all week!”
And he resumes throwing pinecones into the woods.
I guess I’ll have to forget about communicating with old Herb today, and wish YOU a good day instead.
I know we don’t know each other, but I can still wish you well. It’s a free country, you can’t stop me—not even if you threatened to tickle me to death.
So wherever you are, I wish you the best day you ever had. Ever. I really mean it. I hope the weather is bright, sunny, and warm. I hope someone you haven’t heard from in years calls you unexpectedly.
That’s what happened to me yesterday. I got a phone call from a friend I haven’t heard from since I was 10 years old. We were buddies back then.
Once, he and I got in trouble for putting frogs in the girls’ restroom sinks at school. Before the principal interrogated us, he made us place our hands on the Bible and swear to tell the truth.
He asked us flatly: “Did you put frogs in the girls’ bathroom sink?”
We denied all allegations. And we were telling the truth, I swear to you. We did NOT place frogs in the girls’ bathroom sink.
We placed them in the girls’ toilets. I have no idea how they got into the sink.
Anyway, it was good hearing my buddy’s voice. I didn’t recognize him. We are middle-aged men now, we’ve lived very different lives.
He told me he had a serious fight with colon cancer, and he’s in remission. Ever since his brush with the “C” word, he’s been making a lot of phone calls to reconnect with old friends, just to wish them a nice day.
“It changed me,” he told me. “I’m not the same guy I was two years ago.”
A person changes a lot over time. A fella grows into a different man altogether just by living.
After all, life beats you up a little bit more every day. It ages your skin, takes a toll on your mind, gives you arthritis, back pain, and sometimes it steals things you love.
But it goes so fast. One day, you’re standing beside Camp Creek, gigging frogs with your buddy. The next day you’re thinking about buying a pair of Velcro shoes.
Some days it can feel like the whole world is against you. It seems like people are getting more selfish, and angrier. Folks on TV are less happy than they used to be. The price of gas is rising. Modern country music couldn’t get any worse.
There is nothing easy about the business of living. This is why I hope you have a good day. A perfect day, even. The best you’ve ever had.
Just one day. That’s all it would take to change a person forever. One magnificent day that makes you feel so good you feel like doing something crazy. Like buying a pink sweatshirt. Or a khaki jumpsuit.
Or maybe you will step outside your tent at midnight and stare upward at the stars. Maybe you’ll wonder what lies beyond the sky. Or what love is made of.
Maybe you will feel so good you’ll start doing senseless things like picking up pinecones and throwing them into the woods even though, technically, you are already in the middle of the woods.
After my shower I walk back to my campsite. I arrive to see Herb and Mary loading backpacks. They are about to take a nature walk this morning.
She’s adjusting the straps on her shoes, Herb is pulling the zipper of his jumpsuit and adjusting his hearing aids.
Herb waves his arms at me. He’s trying to get my attention.
Hey!” he shouts. “Can’t you hear me? I’ve been yelling at you this whole time, ‘I hope you have a nice day!’”
Well, how do you like that?