Tuesday, May 21, 2013

People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel (or, "A New Definition of Cool")

“He was a cool dude.”

It was the ending of a text about the ending of a person’s life, just the day before. I had sent the message to my sister, expressing my feelings about the awful news. I stared at that phrase on the phone’s palm-sized screen for several seconds.

He was a cool dude.

It was so simple. I felt compelled to say more. But at the same time, I felt that phrase was...right. Accurate. True. He was a lot of other things – and people closer to him can go on and on about his strength of character, his humor, the bigness of his heart. I agree to all of that, but yet, at the moment I re-read my text, I was shocked by how being “a cool dude,” with its simplicity, conveyed one of the highest, heartfelt compliments I could give a person.

The reason that phrase was so right is because even though I wasn’t in this man’s inner circle, or mid-level circle, his passing still rocked me.  That’s a testament to just how cool he was. The fact that I’m several degrees from being his best friend and yet, I have shed tears over his loss.

We didn’t chat on the phone or do lunch or buy gifts. But every time I saw him, it was hugs and smiles.

Another reason he was so cool? When I lived in the area, I was one of the folks that would congregate on Monday nights, in his bedroom, with our folding chairs, and watch football (but mostly talk about relationships and…uh…ahem…such). My attendance was terrible – maybe once a month, if that –  but I enjoyed every minute of it. And what was so cool about it was the way he opened up his home – his bedroom – to us. I mean, that’s where the big screen was, but ….who does that? He did – in the most welcoming, friendly way.

You don’t see that every day. And with me –  a cool, non-judgmental, loving-life, positive, warm vibe –  goes a long way.

He was a person that you met and instantly felt good around. He had reason to be stuck up and wasn’t. He was nice and it was genuine.

And when I say cool, I don’t mean “cool” in that “I’m too sexy,” aloof kind of way. Nor do I mean it in that popular, high school kind of way.  If anything, in this context, “cool” is the opposite of all those things – it means down to earth.

A lot of people only speak to people they know. Are good to only those they're tight with. You have to work to earn their trust, a smile, or any kind of acknowledgement. Their generosity of spirit doesn't extend to strangers or even a lot of people they know by name. And while that's all fine, and maybe some folks are just shy or reserved, you can only earn the designation of "Cool" if you're not like that.

It’s made me ponder what people I’ve crossed paths with along the way might think about me. Associates, the non-crew members, folks who aren’t your bosom buddies, but you know them and they know you. Old colleagues, neighbors. People you sat next to in college. Roommates. Pew partner. The guy that you saw every week that worked at the 7-Eleven by your house. Your mechanic. They only have a few hours, days, or weeks to go on.

What’s the impression you leave with people you only encounter for a short while, a season?

I would like to believe that at the mention of my name, most people would nod in acknowledgement, smile, and say, “Oh her? She’s a cool chick.”
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

[R.I.P. Sheldon "DJ Saxwell" Martinez] 

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