Friday, September 25, 2015

There Are Other Worlds To Sing In

I had a very different article planned for today. Then early this morning, as is my routine when I wake up, I grabbed my, now nearly indispensable, OnePlus One smart phone to read my morning email, blog feeds, peruse the headlines, check out an interesting YouTube video and maybe listen to all or part of a podcast. My college friend from many years ago, Greg Cordano from New Jersey, sends out daily emails with uplifting, positive quotes, encouraging ideas and anecdotal stories. I always read them because I know Greg and I know his heart and his intention to make people feel better and improve themselves.

This morning, Greg sent a rather lengthy story. I read it and it instantly resonated with some of my own thoughts and some things I've been hearing from other bloggers and podcasters recently. After I completed reading it, I decided to go out on my three to four mile walk and relisten to the latest episode of Darren Rowse's “Problogger.com” podcast. I was already inspired by Greg's story, but some of the things Darren was talking about fell right in line with what I was feeling about Greg's story. It was then, during my walk, when decided to change my article today and share Greg's story with you.

I don't know if this is a true story of a short story of someone's creation. I don't know who the author is, so for the moment, I'll simply say, Anonymous. What captured my mind and heart was that I could relate on certain levels with this boy named Wayne. I remember the old telephones where you picked up the phone and heard one of the other three parties who shared that phone line. I remember talking to operators and information operators. I remember asking occasional questions other than for a phone number. Yes! I'm old enough to remember that.

I'm going to let you read the story. I have done nothing to change it other than fix up a few punctuation marks and reformat it from the email to fit into the blog. After the story I'll have a few more comments. I hope they will cause you to remember back to an earlier time and one or more people who, in some way, inspired you to become the person you are.

The Story

When I was a young boy, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember the polished, old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked to it.

Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person. Her name was "Information Please" and there was nothing she did not know. Information Please could supply anyone's number and the correct time.

My personal experience with the genie-in-a-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there seemed no point in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear.

"Information, please," I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear. "Information."

"I hurt my finger..." I wailed into the phone, the tears came readily enough now that I had an audience.

"Isn't your mother home?" came the question.

"Nobody's home but me," I blubbered.

"Are you bleeding?" the voice asked.

"No, "I replied. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts."

"Can you open the icebox?" she asked.

I said I could.

"Then chip off a little bit of ice and hold it to your finger," said the voice.

After that, I called "Information Please" for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math.

She told me my pet chipmunk, that I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.

Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary, died. I called, "Information Please," and told her the sad story. She listened, and then said things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was not consoled. I asked her, "Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?"

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, "Wayne, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in."

Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone, "Information Please."

"Information," said the now familiar voice.

"How do I spell fix?" I asked.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much.

"Information Please" belonged in that old wooden box back home and I somehow never thought of trying the shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall. As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me.

Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about a half-hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, "Information Please."

Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well.

"Information."

I hadn't planned this, but I heard myself saying, "Could you please tell me how to spell fix?"

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, "I guess your finger must have healed by now."

I laughed, "So it's really you," I said. "I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time?"

"I wonder," she said, "if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls."

I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

"Please do," she said. "Just ask for Sally."

Three months later I was back in Seattle.

A different voice answered, "Information."

I asked for Sally.

"Are you a friend?" she said.

"Yes, a very old friend," I answered.

"I'm sorry to have to tell you this," She said. "Sally had been working part time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago."

Before I could hang up, she said, "Wait a minute, did you say your name was Wayne ?"

"Yes." I answered.

Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you.”

The note said, "Tell him there are other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean."

I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant.

Never underestimate the impression you may make on others. Whose life have you touched today?

Why not pass this on? I just did...

Lifting you on eagle's wings - may you find the joy and peace you long for

Life is a journey ... NOT a guided tour.

Not “The End”

Here are some thoughts the story brought to mind. As this young boy, Wayne, grew to become a young man, this unseen person, Sally, who he only knew as “Information Please,” had touched his life and left a lasting impression. The story doesn't go into enough detail to let us know how Sally may have further influenced Wayne's future life.

Here's what struck me about the story. Life is full of events, we often call, serendipities. I've also referred to things I call pivotal people, pivotal events and pivotal times. Darren Rowse, in his podcast I listened to this morning, spoke about the serendipity idea and how something comes together at a specific time, a specific person and, perhaps, during a specific event. Call it what you will, Sally, the Information operator was a serendipity for a young boy named Wayne.

I recalled, as I walked and thought about the story, the pivotal people, events and times in my own life. I could identify six people, who had no idea they created a channel for my life. One of them was my father. He had an open mind and allowed me to try things and express myself. He opened the main door. Unfortunately, he died when I was 21. I lost his influence in my life. But, what he gave me has stayed with me and I passed it on to my son.

The next person was our family doctor, Dr. Matthew Sheft. He was an encourager from as early as I can remember him. If you are old enough, back in the day, we didn't have all the specialists and labels for doctors. Dr. Sheft treated the entire family. He got to know us and treated us like family. I imagine he did the same for all his patients.

Then there was Jack Nixon, a science teacher in a neighboring town. He lived several blocks from my home at the time. I saw the amateur radio antennas in his yard when we passed his home. So, at age 13, I went to his door, rang the bell, introduced myself and told him I wanted to learn about amateur radio. I was already a shortwave listener. Jack's call sign is burned in my memory. It was W2IMG. He took me under his wing. A few days after my 14th birthday I received my first amateur radio license and call sign, WV2FMT. Jack encouraged me, administered my first and second FCC license exams and launched me in a direction that would influence my future.

When I was completing high school, enter Dr. Sheft again. Dr. Sheft's cousin, Ted Sheft, was the co-director of the largest audio-visual center at any of the New Jersey state colleges. The introduction was made. I know Dr. Sheft built me up beyond my abilities at the time. I was granted a “work scholarship” at the Montclair State College A-V Center before I was accepted as a student. I firmly believe I was accepted as a student because of influence from Ted Sheft.

Ted Sheft and the co-director, immediately, selected me as the student supervisor of the A-V Center. So, not only did I supervise the work of other students working in the department and maintain the equipment, I also was assigned the projects requiring sound support for the concerts of national recording artists appearing at the campus and various recording projects. Ted opened the door that started with my interest in amateur radio and moved me to both radio broadcasting and the recording industry. I joined the Audio Engineering Society, hung out and learned the recording industry in the New York City recording scene and founded the first campus radio station at Montclair State College. That station, WMSC, is still on the air, 48 years later. At least a couple thousand students have passed through its studios. Many of them went on to have successful broadcast careers. I also launched my first recording business while a student at Montclair

I left Montclair and attended graduate school at Syracuse University earning a master's degree in TV & Radio. I moved my recording business to Syracuse and began recording around the state. After I completed my course work, I met Albert Wertheimer, vice-president of a regional radio network based in Syracuse. Al granted me a contract for some critical work for his network. Al and I would meet periodically. Over lunch one day, Al gave me some advice that helped me make a life changing choice. I chose to become a full-time recording entrepreneur based on our conversations.

The Vietnam war was at its peak. I was almost 24 years old and definitely draft material. I decided, if I was going to have to go into the military, I wanted to do something where I could both serve my country and improve my knowledge, skills and techniques in the field of recording. I would go to Washington, DC and find myself a job, before I enlisted. Serendipity was at work and Air Force Major Jack Oswald was in Syracuse for a totally unrelated matter having nothing to do with the Air Force. We met under circumstances that could only have been considered “right time, right place, right people.” We hit it off, I went to Washington and met with him and his people and I had my Air Force job in Washington, DC in recording and radio production. My career grew from there in the nation's capital.

Just as Sally had an everlasting impact on Wayne's life from the story, these six people influenced and positively impacted the course of my life forever - Ed Helvey, Sr., Dr. Matthew Sheft, Jack Nixon, Ted Sheft, Al Wertheimer and Jack Oswald. Jack Oswald and Al Wertheimer may be the only two still alive. A number of years ago I found an address for Jack Nixon at an assisted living community in New Jersey. I sent him a very sincere letter thanking him for the impact he had on my life. I received a letter back from him letting me know he remembered me and our time together. He died shortly thereafter, before I had a chance to visit.

The End . . . But, Is It Really?

All this came from reading a story sent by my dear friend, Greg Cordano. Thanks for making my day, Greg. I appreciate you, Brother.

And now, I challenge you to think about the one, two or more people you can definitively credit with influencing, guiding and impacting your life in the direction that brought you to where you are today. By the way, in my case these were all positive influences. People who were negative influences in your life can impact you to go in another direction to get away from their negativity. For example, an alcoholic or abusive parent or relative, a religious leader and others could have this impact. We became who we are, because of our experiences in life including the people, places and events.

Tell me your story. Who are you? How did you get where you are? Who was the person (or the people) who impacted your life so you'll never forget him or her or their names? Inquiring minds want to know. Tell a brief story in a comment on the blog.       

3 comments:

Richard Rosen said...

My mother is an example of a negative influence that impacted me positively. Becoming a widow with two small children, making a lot of money was her mantra to me. But I became aware of many people with money who were not happy and in poor relationships. So I went the other way: eschewed wealth and searched for meaning, hoping there is more to this world than what the five natural senses can discern.

And that began a lifelong pursuit to understand where did I come from, what is my purpose, and where am I going – my destiny? At the same time growing into an expression of love, truth and beauty.

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Thank you for your story, Richard. I hope it inspires others to contribute some of their stories, too.

Lf&bh
Ed

Matt Peacock said...

Thanks for adding to my inspiration today and everyday.

M&M