Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

June 12, 2009 at 1:12 pm (Stuff that's on my mind) (, , )

I just returned home from visiting our wonderful friends Shellianne & Dougall in Halifax, and spending part of two of those days with my dear friend Ralph, who was also there on business.  I’ve mentioned Ralph before when he was here about six weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with him before he flew back home.  However, after spending time with him during this visit in Halifax, I feel strongly there’s something that needs to be said.  And I’m going to try to do it with as much tact and diplomacy as possible, and hope I don’t hurt anyone in the process.  So here goes…

Why is it that our society places so much importance on physical appearance?  Is it really that important?  Is it important at all?  Are we so shallow that we can’t see beyond a person’s height, weight, or looks?  And what if someone can’t get beyond his own perceived outer imperfections to see the wonderful inner qualities that make him who he is?  You know, the qualities that really count.  Ralph has more of these qualities in his little finger than some people will ever have in their entire bodies.  And in order to make my eventual point, it’s necessary to detail some of them here… 

Ralph is a very intelligent man – not only in terms of what he does for a living, but he is also well-read and well-informed.  He is not a sheep following the masses; he reads up on topics that interest him and forms his own opinions.  And if you disagree with his point of view?  That’s okay too, because he thoroughly enjoys a lively exchange of ideas and opinions.  And he has opinions on a wide range of topics – from volunteering at animal shelters vs. homeless shelters, to politics, to the current economic crisis.

Ralph is a father, and if you want to see his eyes light up and his face glow, ask him to tell you about his child.  It’s so obvious when you see him come alive and hear the pride in his voice that he’s a very connected, loving and caring dad.

Ralph has a dry humour and a very quick wit.  I can’t count the number of times he has made me laugh out loud with his lightening-fast responses to my emails, and his unique way of looking at the world.

Ralph is intuitive and empathetic.  When I was feeling so lost after being given my early retirement, he sensed my need to talk it out, and actually listened to what I had to say.  He told me that as bad as I felt, he thought I was doing amazingly well, and that in the same circumstances, he probably wouldn’t have even been able to get out of bed for two months after going through something like that.

Ralph has so much compassion for other people, and when I saw an example of this earlier this week, it almost blew me away.  We were strolling along the streets of Halifax after dinner one night when we were approached by a homeless man asking for money.  Ralph stopped and turned to face him, gave him validation by looking him in the eye, quietly listened to his story, saw the desperation in his face and heard the panic in his voice … and then gave him some spare change from his pocket.  When I asked why he did that, he replied that the guy was clear-headed and obviously not drunk or on drugs, but also quite simply, because he could!  What an eye-opening experience to witness that!  I’m ashamed to admit that when approached by someone looking for money, I avoid eye contact, mumble something unintelligible and hurry away.  And then feel guilty that I have and they have not.  I’m fully aware that I was taught this because my parents were raising three girls and were concerned for our safety, but still, the next time it happens, I’ll definitely remember Ralph’s example and perhaps react differently.

There are so many more great things about Ralph, but to detail them all would turn this post into a novel, so I’ll just summarize them here.  He is honest, thoughtful, polite, and courteous.  He is kind, fair, charming, and gracious.  He is great fun to be with, loves to tease, and can make six hours fly by so fast they seem like only one.  He is everything any mother would wish for her daughter, and everything any father could hope for in a son.

But here’s the difficult part of this post … I’ve known Ralph for many years, and it absolutely kills me that he doesn’t see beyond the reflection in the mirror.  He doesn’t see the person who I see and have come to love dearly.  (And for anyone who has a problem with that?  Relax!  There’s a difference between loving someone and being “in love”.)  Will he ever be on the cover of GQ magazine?  Not likely.  Will he ever work as a male model?  Probably not.  But you know what?  That’s okay because those things aren’t important.  Those things only deal with the outer packaging.  But do you know what are important?  All of those qualities that I just listed above.  That’s right, all those things that Ralph possesses in abundance.

And let’s be honest here for a minute … I think we all know at least one person, male or female, who’s got the pretty packaging, but then blows the entire picture as soon as they open their mouth.  To put it another way, they’re all flash and no substance.

I’ve also been asked what I see in Ralph.  Let me put it this way … a man can connect with some women by how he looks or the lines he uses.  But you want my attention?  Appeal to my brain, my intellect.  Pretty looks fade and smooth lines get old, but I’ll always be drawn to someone who engages my intelligence.

If I could wish anything in the world for Ralph, it would be that he could see himself through my eyes, and be able to embrace all the wonderfulness that makes him, well … him.  He’s a regular visitor to this site, so I hope I’ve given him food for thought so he might look past the mirror, and begin to appreciate the wonderful man he really is.

Knowing he’s a very private person, I asked, and received, his permission to post this.  Thank you Ralph.  Although written for you, I believe it contains a message we all need to be reminded of.

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My coffee date

April 23, 2009 at 9:22 pm (Stuff that's on my mind) (, , )

Just got back from meeting up with my friend Ralph for a coffee date.  Except instead of going to Tim’s for coffee, we went to this ridiculously high-priced restaurant and had appetizers and Pepsi.  Hey, it wasn’t about the food … it was about getting to see each other again for the first time in about 10 years! 

More than anything else, the high prices probably contributed to the reason it was relatively quiet and cozy … just the right atmosphere for catching up and enjoying the too-brief three hours we had together before his flight left.

It’s not like we’ve had no contact in 10 years – we email regularly … usually several times a week.  But there has never been an opportunity to get together physically … to sit across the table from each other and just breathe the same air… to receive the immediate gratification of a well-delivered one-liner… to hear the resounding laughter in response to a funny story………

It’s interesting how you can have so many people in your life … family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances … and each play a specific role and fulfill a certain need, but only the most special you consider to be in your “inner circle”.  People you instinctively feel comfortable with.  People you just know will always be there.  People you can discuss your deepest thoughts with.     

Ralph is one of these people.

He has been gone for only two hours and I miss him already.  But every time I think of this afternoon, I will smile.

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