When I was a
boy, my parents owned a small mom-and-pop grocery store.
It was nestled against the foothills of the small Idaho town where
I grew up. It was one of those neighborhood stores where
customers were greeted by name, bags were always carried out, and
if someone was short a few dollars, they could simply make it up
the next time they were in.
the time, I occasionally resented having to work in the store
while all my friends played. But in retrospect, the many
wonderful experiences working in the store afforded me more than
made up for any lost freedoms of my childhood. Though I learned
what hard work was all about and the value of a dollar, many of
the most memorable experiences from my days working in the store
came from the people I met.
I think back to those days, many people come to mind. Some
of the faces I can still see clearly; others have become blurred
with time. Some I remember for their kindness, others for
their eccentricities, and still others I remember simply
because they were so unique. One such person was Nick.
still remember the first time I saw him--or perhaps
"experienced" him is a more appropriate term. The
moment he entered the store I could feel a surge of energy fill
the place. Singing at the top of his lungs, Nick made quite
an entrance. He had jet-black hair and a thick moustache.
Being nearly as round as he was tall, his colorful tie rested
comfortably on top of his prominent middle. He claimed he
was Greek and that he was quite the ladies' man--both of which I
seriously doubted, but chose to believe anyway.
his job as a wine salesman might not have been the most exciting or
rewarding, you sure couldn't tell it from how he acted. Nick had
an irrepressible zest for life. If he ever had a bad day, I
certainly never knew it. Never before or since have I met
anyone whom I instantly liked more or who could, without fail,
make me smile--both inside and out. I marveled at his
ability to be completely himself and at ease with everyone he met
and in every situation. It didn't bother him in the least
that some found him to be quite the spectacle. In fact, I
think it just encouraged him that much more.
was as charming as he was loud, as kind as he was funny, and as
warm as he was obnoxious--you couldn't help but love the guy. For
me, his appeal wasn't really what he did or how he did it, but
rather that he was absolutely comfortable simply being himself--a
true free spirit. The memory of Nick reminds me of the
encouraging phrase, "Dance like no one is watching."
can remember watching him as I went about my duties at the store,
wondering what possessed him to act as he did, and laughing at
what a character he was. But when I think of Nick now,
beyond the craziness, I see the confidence he had in himself, the
confidence which allowed him to cast away his inhibitions and
insecurities, to live life on his own terms. And, as much as
I admire him for that, I can't quite seem to find that same
confidence in myself.
times I've suppressed expressing myself--joy, sadness, laughter,
tears--simply because I didn't want to risk looking silly or
foolish. I often hide my true self behind a wall of
insecurity, but revere those who lack this inhibition. No
doubt this is why I remember Nick so fondly, for he was who he
was, and didn't for a second hold any of it back. Whether
you loved him or hated him, Nick most certainly danced to his own
tune and never apologized for it.
someday I, too, will have the courage and confidence to learn the
steps to that dance.