Get to know the special ‘strangers’ in your day-to-day life

The phrase “angels unaware” often pops into my head during the day.

It happens when I encounter special people during the day, you know, the ones you see regularly, but you don’t even know their names. You may work in the same building or go to the same church or see them volunteering at a hospital or charity event. They always smile and greet you and often make you feel good about yourself.
I’ve noticed that in my life, these people are often seniors. Statistics show that depression is a problem in this age group, so I decided to ask some of these special people what their secrets are, and if they even know how much they positively influence others.

First I spoke with Gerri. She was happily supplying fresh towels, keeping the showers and floors clean in the locker room of the fitness center where I swim several mornings a week, I found out a little bit about her life. She grew up the second youngest of 10 children near Jackson, Minn. Amazingly — all 10 siblings are still living.

After leaving home and working in Minnesota for several years, she moved to Sioux Falls and worked 37 years at Raven Industries. After eight years of retirement, she answered an ad for a part-time porter at the fitness center, not knowing for sure what a porter actually does. She learned quickly and at 74, Gerri is in excellent shape and moves energetically about her tasks, managing always to say hello and smile at everyone. She jokes abut her lack of swimming ability and quips, “If they ever tell me to jump in the pool, I’ll know they want to get rid of me because I can’t swim and would probably drown!”

Gerri considers helping others the most important task in life. She drives others to the grocery store, mows lawns and does odd jobs people need. This obvious care for others makes Gerri one of the people who make my day and many others whenever we see her.

I feel the same way bout Jeff. He was born into a family of 12 kids — with one bathroom! — and contracted cerebral palsy at a year, from complications from pneumonia.

He was a day student at Children’s Care Hospital through graduation and now serves as the first president of their Alumni Association.

From the moment he was old enough to vote, Jeff was interested in politics and worked on several campaigns, culminating in working 25 years in Tom Daschle’s office. Currently, he helps to manage the Democrat State office. The pictures and mementos on his wall tell stories of relationships in his life with people most of us have only read about or seen on TV. In his spare time, he plays pool, watches CNN and enjoys “life in general.” As he nears his 60th birthday, Jeff says “helping other people” gives him the most joy. As Jeff moves through life, he never meets a stranger. Not only do you get a smile and a remark that makes you feel special, you may even get a hug.

So, the next time you see that special person that makes your day better, maybe you will stop and share stories. Maybe you will even find out you are an “angel unaware” to someone, too!

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