“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
– Anne Frank
I couldn’t help it. My daughter told me not to, but I did it anyway. I called the wrong number back, on purpose. But it wasn’t just any wrong number. It was Anthony’s number.
I had attempted to call a client a few days prior and discovered I dialed the wrong number.
“Sorry to bother you,” I said to the elderly gent on the other end of the line.
“Oh dear, it’s no bother, in fact, this is the highlight of my day. I am 92 and I’m just sitting on my porch and I haven’t talked to anyone all day. It’s so nice to hear your voice!”
In that moment everything shifted, it wasn’t the day to be in a rush.
I asked him his name and told him mine and we talked about life and love like we are old friends. His voice was so delightful; not only could I feel his spirit and energy right through the telephone, but I could also feel mine being lifted. He absolutely and totally made my day.
For days I talked about this stranger, I told everyone I knew about Anthony.
And then, ignoring my daughter’s claim that I was ‘stalking’ him, I called him back.
“Hi, Anthony, this is Stephanie!”
“The wrong number that called you a couple of days ago.”
“Oh, dear, how wonderful to hear your voice again!” he beamed.
We had another wonderful conversation. And then it just popped out of my mouth.
“Anthony, do you listen to the radio?”
“Yes, I am mostly blind, so I listen a lot.”
“What station do you listen to?”
“Anthony, listen tomorrow around 4 and I am going to say ‘Hi’ to you on the air, OK?”
He thought this would be great fun and told all his family about ‘us.’
And then, I couldn’t help it – and I didn’t tell my daughter – I called him again. This time I asked him if I could speak to him live on the air. He was thrilled. He called everyone he knew and told them to listen in.
And when I called him on-air, he was a rock star.
His story is amazing. He taught himself how to read after he retired, he speaks many languages (seven I think it was), and he was a war hero; he had to cut off the foot of a man who was stuck under a burning truck, which exploded just after he got them away.
On the air I complimented his constant cheery disposition. I asked him how he kept his positive frame of mind, how he was so happy at 92, and how he handled it when things went wrong or people treated him badly.
“People were great, my life was great, the world is great and that’s that,” he declared.
“OK, Anthony, but what do you do when people annoy you, disappoint you, hurt you? How do you handle that?”
I persisted, starting to wonder if he had a little dementia.
“Come on now, you are 92 and no one has ever annoyed you?”
“Nope. People are wonderful,” he maintained.
Even though he nursed the love of his life through terminally ill cancer at home, even though he literally woke up blind and deaf one morning, even though he has war stories that would make you cry, his attitude outshines everything else. He focuses only on the positive and I know want to be like him when I grow up.
After the show his granddaughter wrote me a letter and verified everything.
“He’s learned everything he could, taught himself what he needed to know, always treated others with the same respect and dignity, and his general outlook on life is as a journey – not a destination,” she wrote.
“All my life that man has been exactly the same and when he told you he’s never had anything annoying happen to him, it’s just because he doesn’t let things bother him too much or for long. I honestly don’t know how he does it, because there has been enough ‘just cause’ for him to be soured over the years.”
I had an opportunity to make a difference the morning I dialed the wrong number and struck up a conversation with this elderly man. You don’t need to start a foundation, travel to third world countries or speak in front of thousands of people to make a difference. You just need to seize opportunities like this one, recognize the potential to make a small shift and act upon it.
I feel like I gave a quarter, received a $20 bill, and was thanked for the transaction.
Every day we have opportunities to make a difference, to let someone else shine. Why wait for great, big, momentous things to occur? Peak under every rock, around each corner and take the chances, big or little, as they come.
Thanks Anthony for shining your light into my world.
P.S. A few weeks after the show I got to meet Anthony in person. He gave me the secret of life.
“Every day is beautiful,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s raining or cold or whatever is happening – every day is a beautiful day.”
This is an excerpt from Stephanie Staples’ book “When Enlightening Strikes.”