By Tim Hayes []

The kids just roll their eyes when I pull this old chestnut out of storage.  “When I went to elementary school, we had to walk there in the morning, walk home for lunch, walk back to school, and walk home again.”

Occasionally I throw in little sweeteners to embellish this heart-tugging tale of hardship and woe, like it was uphill both ways, or we were chased by wild dogs every other day, or some other detail to make it more empathetic.  But forget empathetic.  My kids just think it’s plain old pathetic.

And, truth is, even though my friends and I did make the trek back and forth between school and home twice each day, I remember it fondly.  That’s how we got to be such good friends, spending 15 minutes four times a day walking along, talking, joking, throwing snowballs at each other in January and baseballs to each other in May.

And hoping we’d bump into the Wise Potato Chip Guy.

He earned that moniker not necessarily because he was such an impressive intellect, but because he drove a delivery truck for the Wise Potato Chip Company, and would stop on random days at a little family-owned neighborhood store we’d pass – long before the days of 7-Elevens. 

The definition of a great day for me and my buddies back then?  A day when we timed it just right, as the Wise Potato Chip Guy unloaded a delivery at the store while we headed back to school after eating lunch at home.  He’d see us coming, reach into the truck, pull out a handful of little potato chip bags that maybe had been smashed a little, or that he wasn’t worried about accounting for, and toss them to us.  We’d thank him, chat him up for a few seconds, and continue on our return trip to school happily munching on some free chips and pretzels and cheese curls. 

What motivated the Wise Potato Chip Guy’s generosity?  Hey, it didn’t matter to us – to a bunch of boys heading back to parochial school, this became our version of manna from heaven.

It just goes to show that inspiration, or grace, or just plain good luck can appear from anywhere and at any time.  The trick is to be open to it, accept it for what it is, and be thankful.  For writers, a perfect phrase pops into your brain as soon as you stop thinking so hard about it.  For public speakers, the perfect anecdote to illustrate a point comes zooming out of nowhere to wow an audience and boost your confidence.

Hey, it doesn’t matter how it happens.  Being receptive to the phenomenon, even expecting it, certainly helps.  Maybe that generous potato chip guy was more wise than we ever gave him credit for being, after all.

Copyright 2011 Transverse Park Productions LLC