A friend wanted to meet for lunch recently at Stoysich House of Sausage — a store that is well-known in my city, but I’ve never actually been inside. I didn’t even know they served meals there.
I met him there and stepped back into the 1950s.
The guys behind the meat counter were wearing soda jerk hats that looked like something out of Happy Days. The walls were lined with memorabilia from bygone eras — photos of the local high school teams, a Hollywood Diner poster, an oriental fan, a flag that salutes the troops at Iwo Jima, a tattered and torn black and white photo of a man who is wearing a bow tie, under which said, “Re-elect Mayor James J. Dworak.” He was the mayor of my city from 1961-1965. For the record, he only served one term.
Below all the memorabilia is four shelves (they have seen their better days) worth of books—mostly cookbooks or books about food, such as “Tastes of Asia,” “The Bread of Life Diet,” “Round the World Cookery,” and “Easy Entertaining.”
Sandwiched between all of this history, you’ll find a small sausage and bratwurst roll cage like you see in gas stations but are always too afraid to sample from out of fear that the brats have been rolling inside that thing since last Tuesday.
That wasn’t the case with this place. When my friend and I got there, they only had two brats left and they weren’t adding any more. We snagged them, along with two small bags of chips apiece, and a can of pop. I looked around, trying to figure out where to pay.
“You pay when you’re done,” my friend said.
You are on the honor system there, which in this day and age when department stores have heartburn medicine under lock and key, was pretty incredible.
After lunch, we went up to pay and the man behind the register asked what we had.
“I had one sausage, two small bags of chips and one pop.”
The clerk rang it up. “That’ll be $3.60.”
It sort of felt like I ordered off the dollar menu at a fast-food place but when I thought about it, the experience was so much better. Where else can you step back in time, have the total trust of a merchant, and pay such a cheap price?
As we were about to leave, I noticed how unhurried I felt. I’d been so focused on the memorabilia and talking to my buddy about it that I hadn’t once thought about what I needed to get done that afternoon.
I tend to be a chain guy because I know what I’m going to get and I don’t like surprises when it comes to food. But this experience made me want to sample the many other non-chain restaurants and cafes in the area — at least every once in a while.
In the last couple of weeks, you’ve been reading articles that encourage you to add new routines to your life to make you healthier, wealthier or wise.
Today, I’m going to encourage you to do something much different. I’m going to encourage you to cut things from your life. At least one thing — something that is infringing on your margin, something that will give you more time to breathe, relax and connect with God.
Most of us feel guilty for watching a movie, reading a book or napping. And it nearly takes an act of congress to carve out time to meet a friend for coffee. But in reality, these are the types of activities that help us to recharge.
We feel guilty because our schedules are crammed full of responsibilities and activities. To read for thirty minutes a day would feel almost irresponsible.
What if you said no to the committee you’ve been serving on for years the next time you’re asked to renew your commitment? What if you decided to step down from or give up a weekly activity?
You will probably disappoint some people along the way, but you aren’t living for the purpose of keeping people happy.
If you can’t imagine doing that, consider what would happen if you were to move. Who would serve on the committee? Teach that weekly class? Take your place on the bowling or volleyball team?
Who knows, right? But someone probably would. And even if nobody stepped up, that’s not on you.
Wouldn’t it be better if you created more margin to think, pray, read, observe or create?
I’ve had one of those weeks.
My aunt passed away a month or so ago. I was checking messages on my phone at lunch one day this week and heard her voice. That hit me pretty hard.
I’ve been on a writing deadline for the past few weeks and haven’t had a day off in … well, a while. I don’t even know how long. So, I’m dragging. If I owe you an email or phone call, I apologize. I’ll catch up one of these days.
My cat has a recurring non-life-threatening issue that crops up from time to time, so I had to take her to the vet Monday. Nothing major. But when she hurts, I hurt. She seems to be on the mend, so that makes me happy.
I have some heavier stuff going on, too. But we all do, right?
As I was leaving the gym yesterday morning, I held the door open for a woman who thanked me.
“Have a good workout,” she said.
That was unexpected.
I saw another woman coming out of the gym, so I continued to hold the door open for her. She couldn’t possibly have heard the previous woman.
“Thanks, have a nice workout.”
I thanked her and entered the gym with a little extra pep in my step. It’s crazy how just one seemingly throwaway line can make a difference—especially since I’m usually not one for small talk.
But for two people to say virtually the same thing? That just seemed weird. In a good way.
All of us have opportunities to be kind, even to people we don’t know. Actually following through and doing so can make a real difference. It certainly did with me.
Encourage a stranger today or this weekend. As someone who doesn’t do small talk, I’m not bursting with suggestions for ways to do that. But maybe going one step beyond what a stranger expects would be a great place to start.
In 2016, a 26-year-old woman named Holly Butcher was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer that affects the bones. She passed away in January 2018. But not before leaving behind some advice for the rest of us.
She wrote a Facebook post that has gone viral. You can read it here. It contains some language issues. If you are offended by that, maybe just avoid the link and keep reading here.
Her point about not whining about ridiculous things like traffic, a lack of sleep, a bad haircut, a chipped fingernail, or your body size hits home with me. I’ve complained about most of these things, save the bad haircut and chipped fingernails.
I’ve also complained about work being difficult and how hard it is to exercise. In fact, I’ve done both this week.
Here’s what Holly said: “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise. Be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things ... until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them.”
“I tried to live a healthy life, in fact, that was probably my major passion,” Holly continued. “Appreciate your good health and functioning body — even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it.”
Her comment about the way her family celebrated her last Christmas was so moving.
“This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves … strange! It might seem lame but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could.”
We could all learn something from focusing more on cards than gifts, couldn’t we? Especially if we took the time to write something personal inside each one?
A couple of points later, she said what everyone needs to hear, myself included.
“Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo ... enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.”
I’m so guilty of this. I think it’s because I’m afraid I’ll forget the moment, but the thing is, there will always be another moment.
Maybe we’re not meant to relive moments over and over. Not that good memories are a bad thing. But maybe we’re not supposed to try to grasp them, protect them, and savor them in an attempt to recreate them. Maybe we’re just supposed to smile because they happened.
Ironically, I have a photo saved on my phone somewhere that was taken at the end of a sports era. It said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I don’t know who said that originally, but it rings true, doesn’t it?
A couple of months ago, I met a friend for dinner. We were showing each other pictures on our phones and that led to a discussion about memes we’d saved.
Mine tended to be serious and contemplative with a touch of corny humor thrown in. Want some examples of what I have stored on my phone?
One shows a woman lying in the grass with a book in her hands. The quote next to her is from Oscar Wilde: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” I don’t know the intent of the meme’s creator, but I took this to mean that living is associated with reading. That resonates with me.
Another one shows an elderly person’s hand grasping a child’s hand. The quote above their hands is from Carlos Medina: “A soul that carries empathy is a soul that has survived enormous pain.” I find this to be true.
One of the corny ones has maybe 20 different ways to say goodbye that I’m totally going to use with my niece. I can’t wait to hear her reaction when I say, “Toodle-loo, kangaroo,” or “Better shake, rattlesnake,” or “Chop chop, lollipop.” I’m hoping for multiple eye rolls and I suspect I’ll get them.
The last one I’ll share has a picture of a baby with a scrunched up face that says, “So you’re telling me you drive a mile to the gym to walk a mile on a treadmill.”
I can’t remember which memes I showed my buddy over a basket of chicken wings, but they were pretty similar to these because I have dozens of similar memes on my phone.
What do they say about me, other than I skew toward the serious side of life and have a corny sense of humor?
I don’t want to just exist — working, paying bills, going to bed early, then getting up and doing it all over again. Not that anybody can shirk responsibility, but I need space for laughter, reading, contemplation, and recharging. If I don’t get this, I struggle.
I want to be someone who expresses empathy. I want to sit with you and listen as you tell me what’s really going on in your life. I want to remember dates that are important to you. I want you to feel the freedom to cry, ask for prayer, express your anger or rejoice. And I hope for all this in return. Everyone has experienced loss. It should make us empathetic toward one another.
I’m a bit corny and sentimental. I don’t express that side of myself face to face around a lot of people. But if you’ve seen that side of me, that’s means I trust you.
Finally, I want to be someone who can laugh at myself. The baby meme that makes fun of the person who drives a mile to the gym to walk on the treadmill for a mile totally hits the mark with me. Although, in my defense, I drive a mile to walk a mile and a half.
Saving memes on our phones is just a technological twist on saving quotes in a notebook — the way we used to. Not everyone does it but the technology makes it so easy that I imagine most people do.
With that said, if you were to die today and someone had access to your phone tomorrow, what would he or she learn about you based on the memes you’ve saved?
Better yet, why not have a meme-sharing conversation with a friend the next time you see him or her. Make a game out of it. Take turns flipping through the memes you’ve both saved and explain why each one touches you or makes you laugh.
It’ll be a great way to go deeper with one another.