For more than an hour, we had been discussing a manuscript that was in the midst of the editing phase of development. I appreciated my friend and colleague’s editorial advice and counsel both personally and professionally. His suggestions were spot on and articulate, and as a result of his editorial involvement, my manuscript was going to be better.
We met early in the day, so we both ordered breakfast. Eggs, home fries, toast, and coffee made up the bill of fare. At this particular restaurant the portions are large, and more often than not membership in the clean plate club often falters. It did for both of us that day. As we continued to talk, I must admit that I barely noticed that two women had taken the booth beside ours. I was enjoying and appreciating the editorial advice I was being given, and that was the focus of my attention.
With no warning, one of the two women who had been sitting beside us, stood up walked over to our table and asked if she could have the home fries and toast that we had not finished. Not knowing why she was asking for them, I immediately said, “Oh please, can we buy you breakfast?”
“No thank you; I’ve finished my breakfast. I want the home fries and toast for my chickens; they love them.” We obviously agreed, and she carefully loaded the home fries and toast from our plates into a small take-home container that the waitress had given her. She explained her desire not to waste food, and told us a bit about her chickens, one rather large one in particular. It was obvious that this Rhode Island Red was her favorite. She thanked us for letting her take what we had not finished, then she said that she wanted to give us something in return.
She said, “Some people who know me, call me the Joke Lady.” She asked for a small scrap of paper and a pen. I had a pen that I offered, and I tore off a small portion of the placemat in front of me. Handing them to her, she began to carefully jot down the punch lines to five of what she called her favorite animal jokes. As she wrote them down, she shared each of the jokes:
What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear
What do you call a camel with no hump? Humphrey
What do you call a deer with no eyes? No I dear
What do you call a cow with only two right legs? Lean beef
What do you call a cow after it delivers a calf? Decaffeinated
They were cute, they were funny, and they did give us a laugh. In this exchange that took no more than three minutes there were, however, some life lessons that did not dawn on me at the time. Because I was really focused on the conversation I was having with my friend and editor, I didn’t get them, until I found the small piece of placemat on which she recorded the punch lines. When she handed it to me, I stuck if on my money clip and forgot about it. Later in the day, I referred back to it to share the jokes with my Grandchildren. After I shared the jokes, I began to think about her, and as I did the lessons that this brief encounter offered became clear to me. They weren’t lessons that she had to explained to us, but rather lessons that her actions demonstrated.
Don’t be wasteful.
All creatures, great and small, are worthy of your care and attention.
If you want something, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
When you ask for something, do what you can to give something in return.
Never pass up a chance to put a smile on someone’s face.
I thanked her for the jokes and promised that I would pass them on. What I didn’t thank her for were the life lessons that our encounter with her afforded us. I wished I had realized them in time to thank her directly, but that was not the case. So I’ve decided to thank her two other ways. First, I’m going to periodically remind myself of the lessons she so openly demonstrated for us. I want to live the lessons she offered. And secondly, I am sharing her simple yet profound story.
Life is complicated and hectic at times. It offers both challenges and opportunities along the way. As you face your challenges and strive to make the most of your opportunities, one of the most powerful sources of support you can have are the positive examples offered by others.
Thank you Joke Lady.