My Friend Sammy

“I sometimes exaggerate my importance by focusing on the successes of an earlier life. I had no idea at the time of these events, how important they could become. I did not take these things seriously nor did I plan to make a better life for myself by using my gifts to improve my life in the future. I interpreted the wisdom of the eighties about living one day at a time, to mean no plans for the morrow: Accept the gifts of the day.

And so I let my life slip away. And, today I am watching last minute gifts of creative thinking occur with just enough regularity to taunt me. And where there was once a large support group cheering me on to bigger and better things, today my friends are retired people who appear to resent and/or tolerate my gifts and I spend more and more time alone. I need no income but I have in the last year lost all desire to be around people.” Sammy.

If the words attributed to Sammy sound like my own, it is because these are the words as I remember them of this onetime celebrity, spoken as they now exist only in my memory, the words of a friend who seemed at that time in his life, to feel he had nothing left to live for.

They are also perhaps, colored by my own thoughts because as I listened to him speak, I relived some maudlin moments of my own. Perhaps, if Sammy reads today’s post he may want to reveal his identity; for now I want simply to use his experiences to guide me and perhaps you the reader, motivating us all to listen to the voice in our head which always rings True if we listen for it.

Here is a fellow, a humorist, a public speaker once in great demand, loved by many and challenged by few, educated, motivated and fully prepared to be a designer and master builder of complicated steel structures. Sammy (not even close to his real name) made a presentation early in his career to an international group of architects. Soon he was getting requests to speak. Within a very few years he was in great demand by Television Talk Show Hosts. Though he was never offered a commission he did build a home for himself and for a family he would never have. Eventually, the speaking engagements were only memories, the public who had adored him had been replaced by those who when hearing his name would usually reply, “Sammy who?”. 

I was Sammy’s friend throughout his career, though more-so at the beginning and at the end than during his days of intense popularity.  I don’t know how helpful my support was when his mood began to wane but I was only one of many new friends that Sammy acquired as his memories turned from sadness to thoughts of gratitude for what he is now learning. Sammy is once again a popular speaker. He talks of his experiences not in front of Grand Audiences but to groups of any size, of others who like himself had once felt lost and whose members were just as likely to receive a request to speak as he.

I had lunch with Sammy last week. He had just held forth before a group of people in a very impoverished section of the city in which he now lives. He had been introduced at the podium by a man who only weeks before had been living in a crate, in an alley, using old newspapers as bedding and a five gallon paint bucket as a latrine, another as a stove.

Sammy no longer concerns himself with the mystery of tomorrow or the lure of the past. Today is the greatest day of his life. I know. I just got an email from him saying so.


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