Second seat on the left
I visited a friend in the hospital last night. Tom Rosten was in a serious car accident and is in serious condition as I write this. He was hooked up to all the tubes and wires and monitors that ICU has to offer. He was unable to speak but the nurse assured me he could hear us. I stood there wondering what I would say… what I should say.
I have attended Tracy Toastmasters on Friday mornings for over 5 years now. People come and go in clubs like this, and Tom is the only remaining original member from when I joined. Sometimes he sits in a booth in the back of the little Perko’s dining room, but mostly he sits in the second seat on the left. He always orders the early bird breakfast special and always tips Patty the server in gratitude.
Most importantly, he has been a mainstay of consistency and support to me and the other members. He has lived a long life, one of the Greatest Generation, and proud to be called a Traditionalist. He is fiercely patriotic, and the first to speak up whenever someone lays the American flag down on the table. He is stubborn and charming at the same time, railing against politicians and regaling us with stories of his youth in a logging camp.
He was the first to offer support when I entered my first speaking contest, and the first to tell me how tickled he was that a Tracy member won at the District level. He was the first to laugh at my stupid jokes. And whenever I got up to speak, I could count on a smiling face from that second seat on the left.
So as I looked down at Tom in the hospital bed, I mustered the following message (in so many words), “Tom, we appreciate you and thank you for the positive impact you have had on us, and we want you back.” He managed to move his shoulders a bit, and then his hand… and even opened his eyes very slightly in response.
I squeezed his hand and the words came out… “I love you. You can beat this.”
On the drive home, it really hit me. We all see people on a weekly or even daily basis that make a positive impact on us: the friendly clerk at the grocery store, the teacher who praises your children, the co-worker who always remembers your birthday… or the Toastmaster in the second seat on the left.
What a blessing it is to be able to tell them what they mean to you.