The incredible Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong
It’s funny, the things we remember. I’m not in the least feeble-minded (and no, I won’t give you my wife’s email to confirm), but I have difficulty remembering what I did last week. On the other hand, I can recall clearly little snippets of this and that from 40 years ago. Things that have little to no bearing on anything. But for some reason, they stuck.
And in those snippets, life lessons can sometimes be revealed.
Take my high school band director, for instance.
Mr. Kennedy, to the modern teen’s eye, was a geek. He wore polyester, sensible shoes, had his hair cut short and slicked back, and loved – LOVED – jazz. He was, to be kind, the brunt of many a comment from my fellow band members.
Now, I didn’t really blend into any particular social group in school. In fact, I did my best not to. All the little social strata’s, the folks that belonged, were thought to be too cool for school? Boring. So, I actually liked Mr. K. He was a fantastic trumpet player (my instrument of choice), and he had a collection of old records that filled several shelves in his office closet. Not LP’s, mind you…were’s talking 78’s…the old stuff. I spent many hours listening to those old standards, imagining myself on a stage one day, in front of an orchestra, and blowing a double-C. Never mind what that is…it’s high – so high, it sounds like a cat getting an enema.
So – on to the life lesson. One day, I was hanging out in the band room, getting music folders ready for the Spring concert. Do I sound like a suck-up? Maybe. But it got me a trip to Mexico. That’ll be another post. Anyway, I just had a thought…so I asked him.
“Mr. K…why do you do all this? Most of the kids make fun of you. What keeps you going? Why do you work your butt of with no thanks?”
He just looked at me and gave me one of his wry smiles and said, “It’s only work if you’d rather be doing something else.”
Wow. I mean, like wow. In eight words and two contractions, he summed up a work ethic that has resounded over my last 40 years. He single-handedly nailed what it is that makes all of us, in whatever vocation, keep grinding and sweating and bleeding and panting until whatever the job was is complete.
I have been very fortunate, you see. Although it look me a long (very long) time to find it, I now work in a field I truly love – and I can’t imagine doing anything else. And now I’ve found a second thing that I’ve quickly grown to love. Writing.
I’m truly a lucky soul. I walk into an office every day at 7:30, leave at 4:30. In the evenings, I sit down and put word to paper.
And through it all, I don’t work a lick.
Cause it ain’t work. It’s only work if I’d rather be doing something else.