The most important moment in life is NOW!
Over the weekend, my husband and I were in Kingman for the KABAM (Kingman Area Books Are Magic) Festival. That odd experience is for another post. While we were there, though, we took advantage of our proximity to
Laughlin and went to see George Benson perform at the Edgewater Hotel and Casino. Whoo-hoo! We were fortunate to score front-row seats that had been released the day of the show!
You hear that George Benson’s playing and you think (OK, I thought…): Yeah, I probably know one or two of his songs. And then he plays his guitar and it’s hit after hit after hit. Songs like “Breezin’,” “Turn Your Love Around,” “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You,” “Give Me the Night,” and “On Broadway.”
So the concert venue is odd. One of those makeshift-looking buildings that’s more tent than permanent structure. And in an effort to cram in as many seats as possible, every folding chair in the place is zip-tied into its row, so there’s no wiggle room. It literally felt like we were sitting on top of the people on either side of us – and vice-versa. That led to conversation because, well, our butts were nudging each other, so how could you not talk to a person?
The little man sitting next to me was Benny (not his real name). He wore a beige golf cap, a yellow polo shirt, and had a well-groomed Van Dyke. He told me, rather proudly it seemed, that he had grown up with George Benson in Pittsburgh. “I’m 73 now. So’s he,” he said, pointing to the empty stage. “I knew him all the way back in third grade.” Benny recalled the times when Benson would go to the corner store and buy a quarter’s worth of penny candy. Then, he’d sit in the back of the classroom, eating one after another. He’d occasionally get caught by the teacher, who would hear the wrappers rattling. I asked Benny if George ever shared his candy. “Never!” came the quick reply. “He’d say, ‘You want candy? Go get your own.’” He seemed lost in thought for a moment.
“We played a little music together,” Benny said nostalgically. “I was on the drums a bit.”
I asked Benny if the men had stayed in touch over the years. They hadn’t – but it wasn’t for Benny’s lack of trying. He’d call up the hotel when he’d learn that Benson was in town. “I haven’t known that guy for a long time,” was the comment he’d hear right before the line went dead.
I asked if Benny still played music. “No. I went into the army. Did 20 years. When I came out, I worked for the post office and then the VA. That’s where I met her,” he said, jabbing his thumb toward a woman I assumed was his wife. “We met at the VA in California. I’m retired now.”
“So what do you do with yourself to keep busy?”
“Nothin’. I just stay home and collect my checks.”
“Certainly you must do something,” I suggested.
Then the show started, and Benny spent the next 90 minutes trying to get his old friend’s attention. Never once did George Benson acknowledge him – not even when, during the finalé, he invited the audience to come forward and they obliged, turning the area between the first row and the stage into an impromptu dancefloor. My husband went right up to the stage, Benny right behind him. I stayed safely in my (now roomy) seat. George Benson reached out to shake the hands of his fans. He shook my husband’s hand – and everyone else’s in his immediate vicinity – except for poor Benny’s. Snubbed, it seemed. “Maybe he just didn’t recognize him after all those years,” said my husband, ever the optimist and trying to think well of the über-talented performer we had just watched, mesmerized.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, he got everyone else. Maybe it was an oversight, but it looked intentional from where I was sitting.”
Here’s the thing. As I watched George Benson finish his energetic performance of “On Broadway,” backed by a truly gifted band, something occurred to me: It didn’t matter that Benny had known George Benson all those years ago. And it didn’t matter that George Benson had snubbed him – if that is, in fact, what had happened. All that mattered was that moment, when Benson was living his passion, up on that stage, using his considerable talents to entertain his equally exuberant audience. He was doing it – right now. Same as he had been for many, many years. Benny, as nice a guy as he might be, had spent those same years attempting to get his validation through someone else’s fame, instead of going out and creating something special of his own.
I posted this image on my Facebook page the morning of the concert:
Then I posted this one yesterday.
A friend of mine once expressed the wish that he had studied architecture instead of economics in college. “Go back,” I told him. “Study it now.”
“It’s too late,” he moaned. “Architecture is a 6-year degree. What if I try it and I find out I hate it?” He was probably 33 or 34 at the time.
“You might hate it – but you might try it and find out you love it. And those six years are going to pass, whether you take that risk or stay stuck in the job you hate.” My friend was like Benny. It’s now 10 years since that conversation, and he never went back to school.
Rather than sitting around and stewing about the unfairness of life, envying those who’ve written their books, or criticizing from the safety of the sidelines, take THIS moment to jump into life with both feet. Make an outline. Use your phone to record your stories while you’re driving or folding laundry. Ask your neighbor’s kid to help you build a website. Just do it. Stop making excuses about why everyone else – especially that guy or girl you knew when – is succeeding and you’re just watching life pass you by.
Do it now.
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