Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Don't Judge A Book

The Nebraska Outback family and friends decided to take a break from adventures last night and enjoy a respectable dinner in a North Platte restaurant rather than a late-night snack following a country cruise or tanking trip.  We won't admit that we're getting old, just that it gets too hard to get up for work in the morning after a prolonged series of late nights.  

I believe the stories and pictures of those recent adventures will make it into the blogosphere sometime in the near future.

For now though, I want to tell you a story.

The six of us gathered at La Hacienda, one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in North Platte. Shortly after we sat down, a man walked in with questions about the Pawnee Hotel. The restaurant staff told him that the hotel was still in operation, but since it's been turned into a retirement home, the good folks at our table set him straight that he was unlikely to get a room there.

Naturally the question came up of the source of his interest in the hotel, and he told us that he had been to North Platte in 1967 to play a football game and that his team had stayed at the hotel. As he walked outside to pick up a local newspaper, our table began buzzing about the possibilities. One of the guys remembered that the Denver Broncos had played an exhibition football game on the North Platte High school field sometime in the 60's, and finally came up with the opposition team, the Oakland Raiders.

When the man in question came back into the restaurant, we queried him once again about his previous trip to North Platte, and it turns out that our guys were correct. The man introduced himself as Tom Keating, and he had played defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders in the 60's and 70's.  And yes, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders met in the final game of the 1967 exhibition season on Memorial Field at North Platte High School on August 26, 1967.

What followed was a fun evening of story telling and camaraderie.

These days Mr. Keating travels the country playing in celebrity reunion golf tournaments and making other public appearances on behalf of charities. He looks like any other tourist, khaki shorts, print shirt, baseball cap (although the one he wears gives a hint... NFL Alumni). He is also as friendly and personable man as you would ever want to meet, with the most interesting stories to tell.

We would have missed it all if we hadn't taken the time to get past the tourist facade and get to know the story behind the person.

In the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia series, there's a description of the land of Narnia that it is larger on the inside than on the outside. As the characters travel through a vast country "further in and further up", they are amazed at the depth and beauty of the land they are crossing because they know the size the land appeared to be on the map.

All of the people we meet in our daily lives are like the land of Narnia, larger on the inside than the outside. All of their experiences, memories, thoughts and ideas, personality and character make them a vast being of infinite depth, regardless of the appearance of the outside packaging. 

Naturally in my chosen profession, and mostly in what I do for fun, I get the chance to meet lots of people. It's easy to judge looking from the outside, and honestly, my judgments usually err on the negative side. However, I do have one redeeming quality - I love to be proven wrong in my judgments. Opening up a conversation, asking a few polite but probing questions, and you find out the most interesting things about people. 

Most have led or are leading purposeful, fulfilling lives doing interesting work, accomplishing great things and are thoughtful, caring, intelligent people.  And the ones who aren't can be just as interesting.

So who are you? Who are you going to meet today? Enjoy it all!

Thanks for stopping by. We could share stories over coffee, which is always on.

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