April 22nd, 2024

A stranger’s kind words couldn’t have come at a better time

By Lethbridge Herald on April 2, 2022.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

When out and about, I never know who I’m going to run into and a couple of weeks ago while at the dentist I had an encounter that absolutely made my day.

For a few weeks, I’ve been suffering from excruciating back pain after hiking through some pretty miserable scruff down at Peenaquim Park to get photos of the sewage lagoons. I’ve since started physiotherapy and am hoping it provides the relief I so desperately need.

I was specifically walking through the area that is being used for the new disc golf course because I figured it was a shortcut. And it was but a painful one because that area of the park is terrible for walking with lumps of grass that are tough to slog through. With my back still bothersome months after a fall, I should have known better but speed is everything to me. And I needed to get those photos quickly, just like I need to do everything fast.

And I paid the price with my back causing so much pain I could almost understand why my dad begged the nurses at the Strathmore hospital to kill him just minutes before he died on his own accord.

Bodies just can’t handle the abuse like they did when we were younger as I’m learning often these days. Remember the days when you could hammer six brews back after an hour of hockey like it was water with no regrets the next day? Or staying up til 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning and hitting the ground running a few hours later feeling refreshed and ambitious?

 I don’t have the energy to down a Diet Coke after walking the dog around the block some days now never mind crack a cold one that’s any stronger. And often now a block or two is all I can handle. Staying up late is making it to 9 p.m. without dozing off twice.

So while in the waiting room at Dr. Goth’s, I was thrilled when a Hutterite gentleman recognized me and told me how much he enjoys my column.

His kindness touched me in a way I can’t describe but it was humbling to have a complete stranger engage in a conversation that was uplifting and encouraging. I wish I’d gotten his name but after Dr. Goth quickly filled my tooth, I didn’t see him back in the waiting room.

After all these years, when someone tells me my work touches them, I’m still in awe. I’m a down-to-earth guy and people know it. I speak and write from the heart with no pretensions of being something I’m not. 

I know in my 42 years of doing this, I’ve made people angry, I’ve made people laugh and occasionally I’ve made them cry.

And I know I’ve been the butt of jokes and ridicule from time to time.

To me, getting an emotional response is what writers are supposed to do. And journalists are first and foremost storytellers whose work is to tell a compelling story that generates some kind of a reaction from readers.

On any topic, a well-written story or opinion piece will provoke a response. Stories and columns that don’t generate any kind of response  say one of two things – the writer didn’t get his or her message across clearly or nobody cared about what was being written.

We all write duds occasionally – in four decades, I know I’ve had my share. It happens. But for reasons I still don’t know, my work seems to resonate with the average person on the street, my style which was described as “folksy” when I was named the Ontario weekly newspaper’s association’s outstanding sports writer back in 1986.

I wear that badge honourably because I believe writers should be able with their words to touch a wide audience. That’s how many writers have become best-selling and wealthy novelists – it’s their style which transcends all ages, social and financial constructs.

Obviously I’m not wealthy or a best-seller and to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out after all these years why people read me. 

I’m not a sophisticated guy with a wine or classical music collection. And I still don’t get the appeal of Rush or drinking IPAs, nor do I think I ever will. I get bored to tears watching “cinema,” the kind of stuff that wins Oscars and has the rest of us collectively whispering  “what the bleep was that?” I’m a simple guy, not a simpleton; let’s be clear, just simple.

And when someone like the gentleman at the dentist reaches out, I appreciate it because that tells me I’m doing my job – to tell stories that resonate with people. That’s wealth in itself.

If the person who talked to me at the dentist reads this, please know I’m indebted to you because you lifted my spirit and eased my pain when I needed both the most. Thank you.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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