The Gift That Keeps On Giving

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I guess you could say it is the gift that keeps on giving. Actually, I’m not complaining. Over the past five months, I’ve come to appreciate the outcome.  To date, I have received five installments of a twelve-installment gift.  Each gift comes with a personalized message from my daughter. Actually, she tongue-in-cheek borrowed the verbiage from the guy at Dillard’s who sold me a closet full of clothing over a fifteen-year-period. 

Whenever he would pick out Dillard’s top-of-the-line clothing for me to try on, he’d justify it by saying: “Mr. Forrester – Since you only buy clothing when it is on sale, you can’t afford not to buy this. This is the best money can buy.  It should make you feel good that you’re not going to have to spend much to get it”.  Obviously, the guy had me figured out. Whatever I purchased had to meet three criteria: “I had to like it, want it and find it on sale”.

I’d try on a sports coat that he’d hand me and the next thing I knew he’d simultaneously placing a hand on both of my shoulders and saying: “Magnificent!  Magnificent! That is perfect!  This is it”. He’d back up a few feet and then walk toward me again saying: “This is butter; real butter.” 

The guy was a genius when it came to having the knowledge base to squeeze a dime out of a turnip.  He’d throw in other favorable comments designed to make a customer feel good: “People can tell from a hundred yards away that you know quality and that you have expensive taste. Always, always Mr. Forrester, from head to toe, you are a sharply dressed man.” 

I know what you’re thinking: “Did he work on commission?” “You bet he did!”  Of course everything he had me try on looked great. Actually, that’s not true. Occasionally he’d hand me something off the rack and say, “Try this on. It is going to look good”.  He’d pause and add: It is going to look good, but I want you to look at the contrast between it and the next coat I’m going to have you try on.  They’re as different as night and day.” 

Actually, it was mostly the price that was as different as night and day.  Long story short, I’m sure he nicknamed me “Easy Money”, but he never called me that to my face. He always called me Mr. Forrester.  I’d ask him not to do that. I’d tell him to call me Don. He’d say: “Mr. Forrester, I can’t do that. I must show you respect.  You are an important man.”

For starters, there probably wasn’t a ten-year-age difference between us. Secondly, the concept of an “unimportant man” doesn’t exist. We are all created with a purpose in mind and regardless of socio-economic categories we may devise to separate ourselves, we are all important.

But I get where he’s coming from in feeling the need to show respect and honor by referring to someone as Mr. or Mrs. and using their last name.  My son-in-law occasionally refers to his dad as “Bruce”.  Bruce is his dad’s name. I’m assuming a lot of people call him Bruce. For that matter, I call him Bruce.  It would seem awkward to call him Mr. Stearns.  Should his son?  Maybe? Maybe not?  I don’t know. Regardless, he sometimes addresses him as Bruce.  It is not for me to say, but I never referred to my dad by calling him by his first name.  Somehow it would have felt a little uncomfortable for me.

A recognized world leader in best practice for working with children and families from hard places asked me more than once to call her  _______ (her first name). I couldn’t do it!  Whenever I saw her, I always addressed her as Dr. ______(her last name). Sadly, she is now doing her work from the other side of eternity and she is dearly missed; however, were she still here she would always be Dr. ______ to me.

Somehow in terms of communicating honor and respect, a causal first name (level playing field) greeting doesn’t always seem to coincide with what seems right.  The General recently told me that she learned from a friend that her husband who has known her father for most of his life respectfully calls her dad “Mr. Stark”. The husband and wife were classmates during their growing-up years. Consequently, the husband has known her dad for a very long time. During all of the years that he has known him, he has always addressed her dad as “Mr. Stark.”  After being married to the guy’s daughter for fifteen years, he finally garnered the courage to ask her dad: “Would it be all right if I called you “James (first name)”? Her father responded: “I don’t know. Try it and see.” 

This dad’s response differed pretty radically from a simple: “Please do! I’d like that”.  So, was the dad saying “yes” or was he saying “no”?  From my perspective the answer could go either way.  I wouldn’t risk it. Apparently, her husband didn’t either.  He continued to call her dad: “Mr. Stark”.

Just as a side note, the man’s wife also referred to her husband as “Mr. Stark” throughout their marriage.  She never called him by his first name. Can you imagine being married to someone with whom you didn’t feel comfortable referring to by their first name? 

At any rate, my Sock Club delivery came with my daughter’s notation: “Magnificent!  Magnificent! That is perfect!  This is it. This is butter; real butter. People can tell from a hundred yards away that you know quality and that you have expensive taste. From head to toe you are a sharply dressed man. 

Each delivery of socks includes a description of the designer’s inspiration.  April’s inspiration was the many panoramic views of nature. They expressed it this way: “Our designers were inspired by the many panoramic views of nature: the horizon, the stars, and the mountain ranges.  These views move us but also contain many mysteries; we can’t know exactly what is beyond the horizon, examine all the stars in space, or see very side of a mountain”.

I am kind of excited to know that my socks have a story behind their creation.  It makes me want to live out the scenario.  They expressed it like this: “Your April sock, The Vista, represents the amorphous horizons all around, and the courage required to take the next step in spite of the unknown. As you wear these socks, we encourage you to take cues from your environment, revel in the big dreams and visions you have for the future, and consider being courageous no matter the view up ahead”.

Okay, so this month’s socks are mostly red. Do I have he courage to wear them to the State Capitol this morning when I attend a Senate Health and Human Services hearing on proposed Legislation?  Maybe? Maybe not? Regardless, when I wear them I will be stepping out into the sunset ready for the adventure ahead.

All My Best!

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Don

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