SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 342: “The Friendly Islands”

I’m sitting here watching the clock tick by, and with my time stamp getting very close to advancing to tomorrow, I’m feeling a little nervous in being able to get you comments from today’s friend John.

It’s been an interesting day in keeping the 365 flame burning. Not so much so in regards to my perspective of the world about us, but in the general undertaking of story finding.

You see I’ve had to prioritize my personal life for a few days in promising my family a staycation. They have been very patient and supportive in loosing me to the extensive time required in keeping 365 moving forward. Not begrudgingly do they set me free. We are committed to the mission of 365 and in it have seen great blessing within the walls of our home. And as I mentioned, they have been very supportive in our destination of bridging gaps to the cultures and world around us. But this said, it is still only fair for me to give back to them in allowing us a bit of quality family time.

Yesterday it was Long Beach and Whale watching, and today it is phones off the hook, delivered food, Farrell’s for ice cream, and back home for fun, naps and general activities.

Yet, as I promised, no matter what… I’ll never a day miss in meeting a stranger turned friend, especially being so close to the completion of my one-year commitment. And in revealing the real truth, I actually meet more people than I can write about. You know, that “Chin up and eyes open to the world” stuff that I keep talking about. It’s affected my life more than I can express, and I hope you are feeling what I mean in your life adjustments.

So, this morning, knowing that my day is pressed with family commitments, I decide to leave a little early in my commute to teach my spinning class, my aim… to find a new friend in route to class.

Twenty minutes of extra time is what I have, not that long in 365 time, and knowing this, I push into the back of my mind the fact that every time I do not let go and begin trying overly hard to profile, select, or control whom I interview and where I will meet them, never do I meet a stranger turned friend.

And because of the sort window of time I have, I go a little further in ignoring a second fact that the average 365 interview has run anywhere between thirty minutes and two hours.

Forgetting any agenda, except twenty minutes before I need to be happily pedaling to twenty or so of my regular riding buddies, I veer into a strip mall directly across from the gym at where I teach. Up the driveway I cruise, completely lost in thought of where to stop and who to mingle with. I tour the parking lot for a few minutes, and although I see quite a few people, no impression is brought to mind in who I should approach. The throw in the towel voice starts to creep up on me, but before it can take full hold of my enthusiasm, and at the exact instant that I decide to exit the area, a man on the horizon strikes me to alertness, the above-mentioned John.

I pull up beside him, introduce myself and within a heartbeat, it is apparent that he is on the same page as I in needing to be to work within minutes. But even with this, there is something about our dialogue that is worthy of noting… John is equally accepting of the notion of; “We are all this thing together,” in the excitement he directs back to me.

“Man, I’d love to do this, but I’m already close to being late for work.” John positions.

“Me too…” I chime in, “…how about we take a few pictures and catch up later.” I propose.

We agree, and it only takes us about three minutes to grab a few snap shots and share information.

So here I sit, writing, and with message in to John in waiting for a response, I’ll wait as long as I can to post, but the last thing I want to do is miss my time stamp… We’ll stand down for a minute.

…Cool… John just called, fifteen minutes to publishing time, now you will know how fast I write.

His reason, “Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, there is no reception at work. This is the first time I’ve had a break.”

Wow! I quick read as to how I see John’s character. Nine hours ago I first spoke with him, Nine hour to a break, and now back to work for another five hours. Why. In his words, “I just wanted to help out some of the kids I work with. It’s the weekend and they want to do stuff. It no problem for me to cover for them.”

John is truly a man who puts others before himself, and some of the reasons why are revealed in his optimistic responses to our 365 questions:

Question 1) If you could share any advise, council or wisdom with the world. What would you say?

John: “Be respectful to others, have real confidence in yourself, and to be humble, and I think that would make the world a better place.”

Question 2) Looking towards the future, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 years. As far, or as close as you want to look. Where do you see the people or the planet being. Or where do you suggest we steer towards in our decisions today?

John: “In ten years I think the economy will be better than what it is right now, no more war, because everybody is trying to calm down about things like that. Technology is going to skyrocket through the roof. I hope and believe that there will be better natural resources… instead of gas and oil.”

I credit his with optimism. “Where are you from?” I ask.

“I’m from Tonga, a small Island over by Fiji and Samoa. I was born here, but my parents were born and raised there. We moved to America around 1975.”

“Is you outlook based on any of the island outlooks, like in Hawaii where Aloha means something and there is a love for the land?” I question again.

John links his perspective to his upbringing, “’Our island has a saying, it called ‘The Friendly Islands.’ And that’s the way I was born and raised; be respectful, to actually pick up after yourself and take responsibility for what you do. Basically that is how we learn to live… actually being humble to people, no matter what size, color, shape or wherever others are.’”

“I’m actually a really shy guy, I get that from my dad. But my mom… she has been trying to raise us to be more socializing. To speak our mind and to actually meet new people… and that’s funny how you came up to me this morning. And then how this all came about.”

He ends, “Is there anything else I can help you with, just let me know?”

John, thanks for just giving your words. You are a good man, my friend.