I think one of the saddest things we humans do is deny ourselves the opportunity to get to know more people. I know this because I'm so guilty of doing this. I pass up opportunities that are open to me for a myriad of reasons, but every time--almost without exception--I've taken that chance, gone outside my comfort zone and gotten to know people better, it's been a positive experience.
Yesterday I noticed a flower arrangement on the podium at church. In our culture (and our church...), that usually means the building was used for a memorial service. It means someone in the neighborhood died. When I found out who it was, it made me sad.
I doubt many people had the pleasure of knowing Dorene Smith. I had lived a few houses down from her for over a decade before I met her, and had I not applied for a job on the grounds crew at Lagoon Amusement Park as a teenager, I might not have ever spoken to the lady. I don't know if she knew who I was. I don't know if she knew that my father had passed away twelve years earlier. Maybe I made her laugh, but for some reason, she hired me.
And I think in many ways, that changed my life. She gave me a chance to work hard, get to know some wonderful people, and create lasting memories.
I had never worked at Lagoon before, but I had many friends who had. They, of course, did not work in the grounds department. Everyone who worked there knew of Dorene, but I don't think many knew her. A lot of kids feared her. She was ex-military and she was in charge of getting that placed cleaned on a daily basis. That is no small task, especially when 90% of your workforce is too young to vote. She had to be tough. If she wasn't, well, you know how kids can be. They'd take advantage and the work would not get done.
But, if they had known her--really gotten to know her--they wouldn't have feared her. Sure, she drove a pick-up around the park before it opened and smoked. She had a somewhat gravelly voice and had to yell sometimes to get our attention. Still, if you got to know her you knew she was a funny, funny lady. She'd tell jokes and stories that were hilarious. And she had a heart as big as the amusement park itself.
Dorene retired many years ago and I ran into a handful of times since my teenage years. Every time she would smile (unless she was discussing some stupid thing the city counsel was considering...). I didn't know she had passed on until the services were over. Whenever I think of Dorene, I'll be forever grateful that I knew her and that she was my friend. Yes, Dorene was a fine lady.
* Photo used without permission from: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/saltlaketribune/obituary.aspx?n=dorene-smith&pid=179673507&fhid=12972