Make friends as you go

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Since childhood when I hid behind my Daddy’s knees as he introduced me, I have known shyness. Most people laugh and say, “Oh, really?” if ever I disclose this fact. Shy adults don’t usually hide when introductions are made; they tend to take a deep breath and may actually appear quite sure of themselves while trying hard to remember the other person’s name.

When I am working at not appearing socially awkward or shy, the names sometimes go up in a puff of smoke. Names are so important to help others realize that you do indeed want to know them and consider it a privilege. Occasionally, they escape me altogether. I may, and usually do, remember all sorts of details about a person, but have to really think to call their name.

I never liked being shy, and I really like people, so it seemed only natural to combat this problem by traveling through life with a friend. And I have, through the years, usually had a companion by my side. These days with Mike driving a big rig for weeks on end I find myself doing more things alone.

Today, I write as I sit in the outdoor area of a new café in Newport, Tennessee awaiting what I hope is a delicious lunch. The other tables are empty. Traffic and the air conditioner’s hum fill the silence. Big trucks pass by frequently, causing me to wonder where Mike is located and what he is doing at the moment.

Alas … someone walks by. But he is too engrossed in his cellphone to see me sitting here and wave hello. Then comes a big, burly guy donning a toothy smile and bringing my lunch. Since I do happen to be sitting here alone and am old enough to possess a wealth of knowledge on a variety of subjects, I decide to give him a few pointers on what he could do to make my dining experience a little more pleasant. Jokes aside, I sincerely wanted to help since this little eatery is a new business and has a few kinks that still need working out.

This giant of a man stayed a while, and we talked about food, business, kids, the community, and families in general. Turns out Paul is a football coach at the high school who has previously worked in a residential program for troubled youth. This eatery is his side job, but he and the other owner have big plans for it. Since I formerly taught High School GED, we shared stories and found that our ideals and passion for people were similar. His youthful enthusiasm and my encouragement of his hopes and dreams for both his football team and the community caused the age difference between us to grow quite small.

Finally, another worker had to come and lead him back inside. “Paul, you have two more orders. What took you so long, man?”

The big, burly guy with the gentle smile and soft heart looked over his shoulder as he walked inside. His voice carried as his steps clattered on the concrete, ”It was nice to meet you. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Newport.”

Well, what do you know? I don’t always have to travel with a friend; I can make them as I go.