I had just showed up at Sam’s place. It was time to go to work. I was greeted at the door by a pair of blood-shot eyes surrounded by a sea of black. He looked more like a raccoon. He had on shorts and a tee-shirt. And his hair was … well … everywhere. He was hardly ready for our trip into work.
Sam lived by this quote from despair.com. “You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor.”
I sighed, “Sam, can’t you ever be ready for work when I get here?”
Sam was exhausted. He never stopped. He never even slowed down. Well, he did stop when he fell over. “Sam, did you know that 100 years ago people averaged 9 hours of sleep every night? What do you get? Maybe 6.5 hours if you’re lucky?. And, you’re adicted to sugar and caffine. I bet every month you eat your weight in the sugar you put in your coffee. Maybe that’s why you’re tired, achy, brain fogged, anxious and unable to lose weight.”
Sam yelled over his shoulder as bumped the walls between the bathroom and his bedroom, “You’d make a great motivational speaker!”
I laughed, “Anger’s a great motivator.”
“How is it that I’m not taking you to the emergency room with everything that you run into?” I watched as Sam stumbled back and forth across the living room. I watched as Sam walked into doors, into coffee tables, and over couches. It was quite a sight. Surprisingly, it didn’t take him too long to get ready for work. That amazed me every morning.
We left his place and walked down the street that led to the subway. I followed Sam as he weaved in and out of the crowds.
When we got onto the platform I saw this guy playing the violin. Little weird. Someone playing a violin on a subway platform. I tried to stop Sam and point it out. I bet that you know what happened.
Sam didn’t stop. Sam didn’t even look! “Come on! The guy’s some street bum looking for change!”
“Hey Sam, that’s Josh Talon! He’s one of the best violinists in the world. Woah, he’s playing one of the hardest musically pieces I’ve every heard! People pay hundreds of dollars to listen to this guy. What was he doing on the platform?”
Later I found out that the violinist was doing a study for some school. The school was researching how many “Sams” are out there. It turns out there’re a lot!
On the subway, I tried to talk with Sam about the story I had just seen on TV. “Hey Sam, did you see the story about a Medal of Honor recipient. He said that he wasn’t a hero. That he was just doing his job. Yeah, just doing his job. He sees his buddy in way in front of him being carried away by the enemy. He runs through a hail of bullets. Get’s to his buddy and spends the next half an hour keeping him alive until help can catch up to him. ‘Just doing his job,’ he says. The Medal of Honor is the highest award that can be given. Only 3468 people have received the Medal of Honor since the civil war in the 1860’s. There’re only 88 people alive right now who have received that medal. In 2009 alone, we had almost 2.5 million people in the military. If this subway was filled with generals and the president of the United States and a lowly enlisted man who had received the Medal of Honor walked into the room. All of the generals and the president would stand up and salute. How cool is that?”
I couldn’t get Sam to Stop. I couldn’t get him to look. And I couldn’t get him to listen.
All of us miss so much of the beauty of excellence that surrounds us every day because we don’t follow those three simple rules. Stop, look, and listen. Studies show that we are happier when we take the time to talk to the strangers around us. We are happier. And, the stranger is happier.
I’m reminded of a quote that really struck me. Alex Campbell said “Progress has come to mean simply more power, more profit, more productivity, more paper prosperity, all of which are convertible into standards concerned only with size or magnitude rather than quality or excellence.”
Think about Sam: So concerned with more money … more power … more productivity. He’s missing the excellence all around him and the pure joy that flows from that excellence. It’s the beauty of the excellence around us that feeds our souls! Not the more, more, more…
I don’t want to be a Sam. How about you?