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“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
—Barry Lopez
(as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)


To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings


Always a Nice Day

As published in Richard Carlson's "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" Series
"The Don't Sweat Stories"

---Each year I take a trip to San Antonio, Texas, for the annual convention of the Texas Music Educators Association. One of the highlights of this event is always the concert given by the Texas All-State Symphony Orchestra, made up of some of the finest high school musicians in the country. This year was no exception. The orchestra performed this night with the skill and finesse common to a professional orchestra, but there was something far more special in the air. Orchestra and conductor seemed like one being.

---As an encore, the group performed the Nimrod variation of Sir Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, following an emotional and eloquent introduction by the conductor, in which he explained the piece's theme of eternal friendship. He closed his oration by giving thanks to the young musicians and sharing a custom from his childhood in England. He stated that whenever one encounters a special moment, one need only press his thumb and fourth finger together and the moment will be cast in memory forever.

---Inspired, I floated out of the auditorium. Arriving at my hotel room, I realized I had yet to have dinner, although it was quite late. I picked up the phone and ordered a pizza from an establishment I'd noticed earlier in the day. I figured a nighttime stroll to pick up my dinner would afford me the opportunity to bask in the memory of the evening's concert.

---I arrived at the restaurant and gave the cashier my name. As I waited for my pizza in silence, she began complaining about her work schedule and expressing relief that the next day was her day off. She then remarked that it was certain to rain; after all, it was her day off. Still basking in the glow of Elgar's embers, I felt optimism sweep through me.

--- "It might not rain," I told her. "Does the forecast call for rain?"

---"I don't know," she answered. "I just know that I'm planning to go to the park with some friends, so it's sure to rain."

---"Well, maybe it won't." I don't quite know why, but I was stubborn in my insistence. She squinted slightly. Who was the nutty stranger insisting that the weather would hold?

--- "It's just that every time I plan to go to the park it always rains, so I know it will tomorrow." Tilting her head defiantly, she raised her eyebrows as if daring me to disagree again.

---"Well, I'll bet tomorrow will be different. Besides, even if it rains, you will still be with your friends." I wouldn't allow her to be negative.

---She flashed me a half smile as if to concede, giving up her pessimism. About this time my pizza arrived. She rang it up, took my money, and thanked me in just the manner she had been trained.

---As I took my pizza and started to leave, she said, "This is when I'm supposed to say `have a nice night,' but somehow I know you will."

---I just smiled. I left the establishment and crossed the street, balancing my precious pizza. I had to carry my pizza in one hand, you see; the other was occupied. My thumb and fourth finger were firmly engaged.