“Sir, You’re Beautiful”

“Sir, You’re Beautiful!”

So, I’m walking along Sonoma Ave in my hometown, toting a cloth bag with a few books I’m donating to the library. I’m dressed in my sunny California uniform, shorts, t-shirt and a battered Oakland A’s baseball cap.

Along comes a middle-aged, slightly overweight woman approaching me from the opposite direction. Her face lights up in a smile. “Sir, you are beautiful,”she says. WAIT! WHAT DID SHE SAY? Caught off guard, I do manage to return the smile and answer, “You’re great,too.”

I continue walking for a moment, stunned by what just happened. Did a perfect stranger just tell this seventy-seven year old geezer that he was BEAUTIFUL? Whoa! Wait a second. That craggy, wrinkled face that looks back at me from my bathroom mirror….beautiful? No, maybe if my mom were still alive, she might think me beautiful but no one else. I like to think I may have other good qualities, but beautiful I ain’t.

Still, I have to admit that the woman’s comment had put a spring in my step. For the next few blocks I sort of floated down the street feeling like the inimitable Ali who could “fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Crazy, isn’t it, how an unexpected compliment can give you a lift?

The experience got me to thinking that maybe I have been too stingy in the compliments department. Hey, it doesn’t cost me a penny to tell someone “You’re looking good today.” What’s the big deal?

It’s not like we are all walking around with a finite amount of compliments in our good deeds savings account. Whoops! I already told my son that he’s a nice kid just yesterday. I’d better hold off. I’m spending too much of my “compliments account.” Here’s the deal. The more generous we are in recognizing others, the more our account grows.

I was brought up in an Irish Catholic family that was decidedly sparing with their compliments. The mortal sin in our house was “spoiling” anyone.
God forbid that anyone should be made to feel proud of what he had done or, even more, how he looked.

We have come a long way from that kind of thinking in today’s world. Some would argue we have gone too far in the opposite direction. The cult of self-esteem rules. Maybe so.

Still, for most of us who struggle through life, only too aware of our flaws and limitations, it’s nice to get a compliment from someone. And, if we feel good receiving an encouraging word, what keeps us from going out and returning the compliment to a friend or even a stranger? What does it cost us?

Hey reader…..”You’re beautiful!

Stuff I’m Sure of…Beyond death and taxes

Stuff I’m Sure About

Benjamin Franklin once famously remarked “In this life nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes.”

Most of us, I suspect, will agree with old Ben. The times we live in are awash in uncertainties. We find ourselves in the eye of a technology revolution that is changing the world around us at dizzying speed. How do we stay grounded when everything around us is in flux?

The very institutions that used to provide stability to our lives, family, and church are in the throes of change. Added to our woes is an economy in crisis, high unemployment, yada,yada ,yada. Man! I can’t stand it.

Ben Franklin’s way of coping with change in his day was a wry sense of humor and a quote that has endeared him to us even to today. Yea, Ben, your are right. There are few things certain in life but, with due respect, there are more than two items on the short list, items that we can hold on to and provide a sense of equanimity to our frazzled hearts and minds.

Here’s my top six, my sure things in life. And first on the list is


I am sure that there is no force more powerful in the world than the power of love. The love of a mom for her baby, a soldier for his country, the love of a saint for her God, the committed love of a spouse for her mate. Yes, I am sure that this kind of love, not only exists, but rules the world.


I am sure that every living thing is connected. What one person does affects every thing else. The butterfly effect, so called because the smallest of actions can cause major effects, is for me one of the certainties on which I base my life.


What we have is today. Nobody can take that from us. The past is a memory; the future a guess. But, by gosh, we do have today.


I am sure that there is nothing more beautiful in the world than a baby’s smile or the innocent laughter of children.


I am sure that no person is so far gone that he can’t be redeemed by our compassion and forgiveness.


Finally, I am certain that each one of us has a purpose, a role to play in life that we alone can play.

Those are my top six. May I suggest that you take it upon yourself to expand on old Ben’s terrible twosome. Make your own list of stuff you can be certain about, things and values that make life worth celebrating. I guarantee that your list will beat the hell our of death and taxes.