“Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.”-Flavia Weedn
I am not sure what it is, but lately it seems that every time I board a flight, I meet somebody very interesting. Perhaps we are surrounded by interesting people all of the time but our busy lives keep us from meeting them.
I would like to introduce to you a friend that I made on one of my flights. His name is Joe Todd. I had the honor of sitting next to this man and his daughter on my flight from Tampa to Austin. It was a rough day as I was dealing with some personal issues just before I boarded the flight- but in that moment I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Upon sitting down next to one another, Mr. Todd immediately introduced himself to me. It is hard to explain, but this man radiated kindness. He reminded me so much of my own beloved grandfather that I lost several years ago. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of happiness inside of me as we talked. Almost immediately, he boasted about being 92 years old. And let me tell you, this man was as sharp as a knife. (If I were this healthy at age 92 I would be pretty proud too!) I used most of my time on this flight to engage with both Mr. Todd and his daughter. After talking for just a short time, it was clear that I could learn a lot from this man. I asked a lot of probing questions about his life, and I left with three valuable lessons that I would like to share with you.
1. Everyone Is A Friend. Mr. Todd said, “Strangers are FRIENDS that we just haven’t met yet.” He emphasized the importance of seizing everyday opportunities and getting to know the people around us. Relationships are the key to life. Sometimes people may not be in the mood to be friendly, but Mr. Todd’s advice was to try to engage them in conversation and offer kindness even if others aren’t willing to offer it in return.
2. Good Health Is Everything. Growing up, Mr. Todd’s family owned a tobacco farm. Despite his upbringing and this environment, he shared with me that he has never smoked a day in his life. He credits his great health and vitality to these life choices. This was a great reminder that as long as we have our health we have everything. I’m not saying you shouldn’t indulge every once in awhile, because I certainly like to. But as with everything in life, moderation is key. “Good health is not something we can buy. However it can be an extremely valuable savings account.”-Anne Wilson Schaef
3. Give Without Expecting. During my chat with Mr. Todd, he not only offered insight into friendship and kindness, he reminded me about the importance of giving. He shared with me that he bakes four pecan pies each day and shares them with others. Many people have asked him why he does not sell his delicious pies or open up a bakery, but he said that would defeat his entire mission. He enjoys giving to others without expecting anything in return. This was perhaps the greatest lesson that I took away from our conversation. Mr. Todd even offered to share his family recipe with me as long as I agreed to share it with others as he does. After my trip, when I arrived back in Austin, I immediately bought the ingredients to make his pecan pie. Luckily, it was right before ‘Friendsgiving’ so I had plenty of people to share it with.
This airplane ride was a reminder that with age comes wisdom and experience and there is nothing in the world more valuable than the lessons that the elderly can provide. If you want add value to your life, sit down and listen to the stories of others around you, especially the elderly. There is so much knowledge for young people to gain if they just set aside all of the distractions and place more emphasis on having actual conversations with the people around them.
I will never be able to fully express the impact this man had on my life in two and a half short hours, but I will be forever grateful that he shared the stories of his life and his wisdom with me. My goal is to have the same attitude of gratitude as Mr. Todd. I hope to lead by example and be a positive influence in the lives of those around me-strangers and friends alike.
Anytime you have the opportunity to reach out to a “future friend” and introduce yourself, I strongly encourage you to do so. Take time and listen to their story. You never know how it could affect you.
Mr. Todd’s Pecan Pie
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix all ingredients (except for the pie crust) in one large bowl
Pour ingredients into a pie crust (can be homemade or store bought)
Place the pie on the middle rack of the oven
Cook for 45 minutes
¼ Teaspoon Salt
½ Stick of Butter
¾ Cup Dark Caro Syrup
1 Cup Chopped Pecans (fresh pecans are key and can be a game changer for your pie)
¾ Cup of Sugar
1 pie crust