Random acts of gratitude

The newsroom here, like most newsrooms in Minnesota, is “all hands on deck” covering the shutdown. It’s quality coverage, to be sure. We imagine everyone hanging on our every word, even if it’s just analyzing why one side is calling the other side “liars.”

I don’t conduct scientific surveys of what people are interested in; I tend to choose them at random and see how their lives are going and where the news fits in, if it fits in at all.

James Taylor of St. Paul was standing at the I-494 on-ramp at Tamarack Road in Woodbury this morning, with a cardboard sign that said “White Bear Avenue.” When I stopped and motioned for him to get in the NewsCutMobile, he was still bemused by the woman who’d just stopped, given him $10, said “God bless you,” and drove off, presumably in the general direction of White Bear Avenue.

“I apologize for sweating,” he said as he fit a too-big frame into a too-small car, “but this air conditioning is great.”

“It works pretty well as long as I’m moving but it just blows air when I stop at traffic lights,” I said, before adding, “so I don’t stop at traffic lights anymore.” Apparently, that was the funniest thing he’d heard all day, which started out with him hitchiking in the other direction, he indicated.

He had to make a payment on a storage unit in Woodbury today, but his vehicle — a Jeep — is broken down with a bad transmission. “The guy was nice enough not to charge me late fees,” he said.

“But it’s the first of the month,” I said.

“I’m a month behind.”

I didn’t get a chance to find out what a guy from St. Paul’s East Side is doing with a storage locker full of stuff in Woodbury because by then we’d exchanged names and he wanted to tell me that his inspires one of his dreams: To open up a bar or restaurant featuring people with famous names without the famous talent. He’s got Steve Miller from South Dakota on board, he said. Some dreams die hard.

When he asked, I told him I work for Minnesota Public Radio, which happened to be playing on the radio as Gary Eichten asked former state finance boss Pam Wheelock if one side calls someone else “a liar,” does that make it harder to settle the state shutdown?

“I talk to people,” I said. “I leave the big stories to real reporters. I like to talk to people and find out how they spend their day.”

He asked if I only talk to Minnesotans and when I said “no,” his face lit up. He had the perfect person for me to talk to: the Texas preacher who, he said, has inspired him to turn his life around — the one who was once homeless and is now a millionaire. James said he’s now an inspirational speaker, too.

“You know what the secret is, Bob?” he asked. “Gratitude. I’m very grateful for everything I’ve got.” If you’re consistently grateful, he said, you don’t have to depend on the state for help.

“It’s probably a bad time to depend on the state,” I said.

“That’s right,” he said. “It’s like MPR; they’re probably grateful to the private donors so they don’t have to depend on the state for money.”

“Imagine,” I said.

By then we’d reached his street and he told me to let him off right behind the broken-down Jeep, and he was off to inspire others and be grateful for the chance to do so.

I went back to the shutdown with no similar sentiment.

  • A

    Well, he inspired me, Bob. I’m grateful for his message. And the Red Sox in your last post inspire me to, as do you for for posting both of these. It does get better, and for that I’m grateful. I needed some perspective this afternoon and just got it.

  • BJ

    I was reading for a critial thinking test I have in 30 minutes but found two paragraphs I had to share.

    from Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life (2nd Edition)

    By Richard Paul and Linda Elder

    Page 10

    No matter what side we are on, we often say of ourselves: “ I am a( an) ________ [ insert sacred belief here; for example, I am a Christian. I am a conservative. I am a so-cialist. I am an atheist].”

    Once we define who we are through an emotional commitment to our beliefs, we are likely to experience inner fear when those beliefs are questioned. Giving into this fear is the first form of intellectual cowardice. Questioning our beliefs seems to mean questioning who we are as persons. The intensely personal fear that we feel keeps us from being fair ( to opposing beliefs). When we “ consider” opposing ideas, we subconsciously undermine them, presenting them in their weakest forms so we can reject them. We need intellectual courage to overcome self- created inner fear— the fear we ourselves have created by linking our identity to a specific set of beliefs.

  • jfh

    good stuff, Bob. Thank you. And to BJ for the 2nd paragraph.

    Jim H.

  • getting there

    I heard something inspiring. I heard that we are not broken, lost or in need of being saved. The truth is that we are divine, but somehow have forgotten. Once we realize the divinity within ourselves we become powerful. What’s even more powerful and inspiring is when we connect the divinity in others and see ourselves as a whole.


    Only I know whether I can see or not see.

    That’s what I heard that was inspiring.