You never know what effect your words may have on another.
The most offhand remark,a simple tale or reflection, or even a joke can change somebody else’s life in ways that you never dreamed.
Back in Ought and Ninety-One, I had just graduated from UAH, and – after a couple of months of frantic looking in that recession economy, I got a job with NTI (New Technology, INC) in Huntsville, AL.
(Editor’s note: This is not a picture of the building where I went to work at NTI in ’91; I can’t find that building. This was the place to which we moved shortly afterward, and where I worked until I left a few years later. And I can’t tell, online, that NTI even exists anymore.)
Right after I started there, I got a new boss, a quite charismatic young man named George. (I’m not using his last name here because he may wish to remain anonymouns, but He Knows Who He Is(tm) : )
Very soon after George started – just in those first few days – I wound up sitting in his office, having some get-to-know-you talks. They were offhand, spontaneous little chats, of no consequence, which he certainly doesn’t remember.
But in one – or maybe two – of those talks, George told me a couple of things about himself:
1) He had run a marathon, and
2) He and his wife had honeymooned snow skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
That’s it – just jabbering stuff that I’m sure he never thought about again.
But both statements floored me.
I’d never met anyone who had run a marathon. I had just stopped smoking six months before this, and was jogging a mile or two a day just to keep clearing the nicotine out. The idea of running recreationally – of entering races – had never crossed my mind, and the idea of a marathon – well, that was completely out of my consciousness.
And I knew that I had known people who had gone snow skiing – I knew that I had a cousin who lived in Phoenix who had gone skiing some in Flagstaff, although I had never been either place and had no idea what such a place might be like – but I had always found snow to be magical and wondrous, and thought that I would love to do something like that, if the opportunity ever presented itself.
As that fall wore into winter, a few things happened; one was that another new guy started, named Keith, who thought that a bunch of us should go skiing in North Carolina. He also brought in some ski magazines, and I can still remember that one of them had a picture of a place called Park City, Utah, on the cover – a town where the ski runs came right down to Main Street and lifts took off from the town itself up into the mountain.
A young fellow that I sponsored was from up north, and he allowed as to how, if I would drive him up to North Carolina, he would teach me to ski (Keith’s trip never materialized) – and then Ethel actually arranged for that with him as my Christmas present that year. We wound up making several trips to NC, and even going up to Snowshoe in West Virginia, and by the time the spring was over, Ethel and I were planning a trip to the Rocky Mountains (we decided, after doing the research in the ski mags, to try this place called Purgatory. That’s actually where Ethel got her name).
The rest is history.
Another thing that happened that winter was that I kept doing a bit of jogging here and there, and then one day in early January, I went out for a mile and a half run, and then just decided to turn and go *thataway* instead of going home, and did about eight miles. I walked in the back door and told Ethel “I think I’ll run a marathon”.
She just said “yes, dear” and kept washing the dishes.
I didn’t even know exactly how long a marathon was, but I was committed (or I should have been). I wound up borrowing a book from George about marathon training, and joined this brand-new thing on the Internet called the “Dead Runners Society”. That December I did the Rocket City marathon in a death march, before training another ten months to do Marine Corps in 3:08:10 (negative splits) and qualifying for Boston.
And the rest is history.
One further off-the-cuff remark from my boss George – after my first Western ski trip, I said that it would be great to maybe someday actually move to a ski town. George smiled and said,’ Yes, everybody thinks that, but – of course – nobody ever does it”. (For the benefit of those not in the know, I’m typing these words in Park City, UT – after skiing the White Mountains in Arizona, I moved to Waterbury, VT, then Park City, UT, then moved back to Arizona and bought a condo in Purgatory,. and moved back to Park City last year. Yeah, nobody ever *does* it, but I’ve now done it four times 🙂
So you just never know what sort of effect anything you say might have one anyone listening. You never know. You might say something that will cause someone to chase a dream, or go on a quest, or move across the country several times.
Or you may say something that might ruin somebody’s life. Just imagine what kind of career I might have had if I hadn’t wasted all of my time and energy for the last few decades running and skiing!
You just never know 🙂