A Shoulder Tap

I’m blessed. I have many wonderful friends. They have, in their own unique way, influenced, impacted and changed my life for the better especially with their ‘Shoulder Taps’. ‘Shoulder Taps’? Up until recently, I had no idea ‘Shoulder Taps’ existed let alone what they were. But when I learned about them, I realized I’ve been experiencing them all my life from family, friends and even strangers.

How did I learn about them? From Loida, one of my special friends. She sent me a video clip that gave me one of those ‘ahha’ moments. You know the ones –when the obvious slaps you on the forehead.

In the video, the narrator told of a chance encounter at a restaurant where he and his wife were having dinner. He glanced over and noticed an elderly woman sitting alone at the next table. What caught his eye was how ‘put together’ this woman was. Her hair perfectly coiffured, her dress impeccable and her countenance serene and beautiful. He thought to himself, “I hope someone tells her how lovely she looks.” Soon several people joined her, probably children and grandchildren he thought, based on the resemblance to the woman. He turned his attention back to his wife and resumed a lovely evening together. When he and his wife were leaving, he did something so impulsive, it even surprised him. He approached the woman, knelt down beside her chair and said, “I hope someone tells you just how lovely you look.” She looked him straight in the eye and said, “I know you.” He shook his head and replied, “Sorry, but I don’t think so”. She just smiled and replied, “A year ago my husband passed away. If he was here, he would have told me the exact same thing.” The gentleman was speechless. After a moment he leaned forward, gave her a hug then returned to his wife, who by now, had a total look of confusion on her face. At the end of the video, he shared how he believed that God tapped him on the shoulder to approach a total stranger.

‘Shoulder Taps’, a word, an unexpected action, a kindness that can change a moment, an attitude and even, a life. Skeptical? Read on. This story, author unknown, was sent to me years ago.

“One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd. I had quite a weekend planned, so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about 10 feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I had never hung out with a private school kid before.

His name was Kyle. We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Damn boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going to study business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak. On graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks, smiled and said “Thanks”.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began.

“Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach… but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.”

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over that weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.

He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.” I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. It was at that moment that I realized the depth of what had happened.”

Never underestimate the power of a single word, an action, and a kindness. When you feel a ‘shoulder tap’ to tell someone that they look great – tell them. Someone you know is going through a tough time and you think of sending them a card – send it. You think of calling a shut-in neighbor – call them.

‘Shoulder Taps’ – feel them, act on them and watch the world change.

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