I met a guy in high school who left a very good indelible mark on my life. I wish I had a long list of people who I could say the same thing about, but very few are like this guy. What makes him so different is he “got it” as a teenager and it took me about 40 years to begin to “get it”.
I met him in Canton, Georgia back in the mid to late 60’s and still communicate with him, even though he lives in Georgia and I of course, live in Texas. Alan Dempsey is a preacher’s son and like many preachers kids, he went a bit buck wild only to straighten out later. However, he was the kindest, most friendly person I had met at that time and still ranks right at the top of my kindest people list. I was a Yankee in redneck North Georgia and needed a friend and he was there for me.
Alan, despite the fact that he had unruly straw-like shaggy blonde hair and possibly the worst case of acne imaginable, was extremely popular with the young ladies. I on the other hand, had fairly good hair and relatively few pimples and in the ladies category was as awkward acting as boots on a camel when it came to interaction with the fairer sex.
Alan’s secret was he was genuinely friendly and interested in other people – possibly other female people times 10. Fat, skinny, homely, socially inept – it did not matter to Alan. On many occasions I would see him in animated conversation with 3 or more chubby girls no one else bothered with and this was all the time. Even the upwardly mobile girls liked Alan. He knew the names of every girl and most the guys in school, but there was a dark side effect to his friendliness.
A lot of guys did not like the competition and thus, Alan was a fist fighter and a danged good one. In fact the last time I saw Alan in Canton before we moved to St. Louis, he was running toward me and his face and fists were bloody. Of course he had a wide smile on his face and as he passed, he informed me that he had been victorious. You see, back in the day if you were caught fighting, you got “licks” by Vince, the ex-Marine Vice Principle.
Vince Thompson was about 5-4 inches tall and wielded a 4 foot paddle with holes in it, made in wood shop and especially for him by the very boys he would most likely later paddle. Vince would 2-hand the flat instrument of correction and lift your bum clean off the ground and this is why fist fights lasted about 3 seconds. Both sides would throw 2-4 punches and then run. It was understood that you did not want to get caught.
What is more fun than people? This is Alan’s big question and one that defines him and the attitude I learn more about every day. Here is an example and try it to see the results. Carry one dollar bills in your purse or wallet. The next time you go through a fast food place at odd hours, give the window person a buck and thank them for being there when everyone else is sleeping. Watch their face light up. It’s money well spent and an investment in your fellow human.
Give a buck to your grocery checker or sacker when they look tired, or down. Tell them thanks and I like to say, “You just made an extra dollar an hour.” Often, they will cheer up and say, “I sure did!” When the checker thanks me for shopping, I read their name tag and thank them by name. When you do this, it transforms them from a faceless servant to a fellow human being. Dale Carnegie taught me the single most important word in a person’s vocabulary is their first name and when you remember a person’s name, you make an instant connection with them. Try it.
Alan was drafted and sent to Vietnam as an infantryman and survived. Later in life he was diagnosed with throat cancer and couldn’t talk for a long time and survived. Is it possible he is still just as excited about people and life in general? Yup. He sure is.
Recently I’ve began making house calls to repair peoples computers and aside from the fact that I actually like to repair computers, I have met some absolutely awesome people. So much so that I’ve been invited to sit and eat with them, drink coffee, and jaw about who knows what for lengthy amounts of time. Maybe it’s because I am retired and don’t have to meter out every single minute, or maybe it’s because I have learned what Alan has known since he was a kid.
What is more fun than people?