The Million Dollar Smile
The blinding darkness of assumptions
The Million Dollar Smile in Marriage Conversation:
He walked briskly up to me hand extended “I know you from somewhere…eh, the country club?” “I doubt it” I said as I limply shook his hand. We were standing around at a Chamber mixer on a hot southern California July evening. I didn’t mean to, but before I could stop myself I said, ‘what do you do?’
“Real Estate investments” he answered, and I groaned. His blue polyester pants pulled high over his bulging abdomen, white shoes and too tight tan shirt pegged him as a guy I wouldn’t find interesting. We chatted a little and I excused myself and moved on full of self righteous superiority. The meeting went as Chamber meetings go and as I was leaving he gave me a shout “nice talking to you doctor” and we both parted for our cars.
It would be weeks later when I saw his face again, this time in the obituary column. He suffered a heart attack on the golf course. The obit was written by a local journalist. In part it read “builder of schools in east Asia dies suddenly.” It went on to describe his selfless work on behalf of poor children abroad, his tireless fund raising, his always aggressive networking for the latest project and his very modest life style. He lost two sons some years ago and turned his life into one of service for children.
I read it. And reread it. Embarrassed and somewhat ashamed I called the office number he had given me and talked to one of his partners. He died, he said, with very little. He had many acquaintances but few friends. His passion was the children.
My own assumptions troubled me for weeks. I couldn’t get beyond my quick judgment of him and his open heartedness towards me.
Sometimes all we have to do to be human is to stop. Stop thinking, stop analyzing, stop theorizing, stop diagnosing, stop. And let another human being enter our overly protected personal space.
If we do, we can change the world.
Stephen W. Frueh PhD is a coach, consultant, writer and speaker. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805 338 4286
“Healthy marriages make the world a safer place for children.”
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