PERFECT WISDOM FROM A PERFECT STRANGER By Ella Miller
A couple of years back, when I had a full-time copywriting job on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, it was a block away from Millennium Park — home of the icon "Bean" sculpture turned famous landmark. It's also a prime place to relax over lunch break and watch the different people who come to Chicago from all over the world... which is exactly what I was doing this one special day in September. I headed to the park and was nestled underneath a shady maple tree with robust leaves turning various shades of red, orange and yellow. A senior, wearing a curious fedora and suspenders, wandered over to ask me if I would snap a photo of him and his friend. He launched into a story about how he was in Chicago for a class reunion and his friend, Reuben, also 70 years old, was an old classmate of his. They seemed delightful and I gladly took their picture.
He went on to tell me his name was Frank, and through some light conversation I told him I worked in a nearby building at an advertising agency and this was "my spot" for de-stressing. Frank divulged that he had been an Advertising Copywriter back in the day (we had that in common) and created Super Bowl commercials — then left the industry to become a teacher which felt more fulfilling for him. Next thing I knew we had chatted, as if we were old friends, for over twenty minutes. By then, I knew all kinds of things about Frank, from how he had nine grandkids to who his favorite students were. He knew I had three children and a husband and had been married for ten years.
Realizing it was time for us both to get going, Frank reached down and picked up the most stunning red Autumn leaf and handed it to me. He said, "You're alright, kiddo... and let this leaf be a reminder of the roots you lay in life. Here, let me show you." He began pointing to the various parts of the leaf saying, "This peak of the leaf represents each of your children, and this tallest middle peak represents you as the strong mother figure. And this stem, well, that represents your husband who helps to carry the family. Together, you are all interconnected... you keep growing together... laying down roots together." His philosophy struck me as charming. He urged me to keep the leaf as a gentle reminder of our discussion, which I did. I carried the symbolic leaf back to work with me and pinned it to my message board. Whenever I took notice, I thought back to that perfect stranger at the park who gave me a perfectly wisdom-filled perspective on family and life. And his message still lives on, right here on The Positivity Tree.