A few evenings ago I ducked out of the house to go on a walk. I needed to clear my head, and a hike always does the trick. Not wanting to leave the kids alone for too long (will there ever be a day when I don’t see them as little children?), I opted for one of my favorite routes – a walk through a nearby cemetery.
Granted, this was not just any cemetery. Designed by Frederick Olmstead, the landscape architect who created the masterpiece of Central Park, this cemetery is particularly beautiful. I entered through my secret passageway – a path that leads to a field that leads to the upper-most point of the park – and made my way through the meandering lanes. Low headstones dotted with bouquets of spring colors, the grass a particularly crisp shade of green, I immediately felt calmed. I wasn’t alone in embracing the ambience. There were a few parked cars along the way, some whose passengers remained in the seats.
I was enjoying my quiet time when I found my stride was catching up with another walker. I noticed was he was wearing flip flops. “Those are not good for hiking,” I noted to self, then wondered why I cared. His pace was slower than mine, so I was forced into the awkward pedestrian-pass. I didn’t want to seem rude passing him, but truthfully, I wanted to get moving. After all, my kids were home alone.
I turned to my right as I passed him.
“Hi there,” I nodded.
“How are you?” I asked off –handedly.
He smiled broadly and said, with conviction, “Excellent.”
I was caught off-guard. When a stranger asks how you are, you rarely answer anything but, “Fine,” or “Good.” Maybe an exuberant “Great!” will pop out now and then. But “Excellent”?” Not so common. But by the look on his face, I could tell that it was true. He was definitely feeling excellent. In fact, I imagined he felt excellent most every day.
I rolled the word over in my head like a scientist gingerly considering a specimen. Excellent….excellent. And it dawned on me. Come to think of it, I’m excellent, too!
My entire family was healthy and very happy. I have a world of friends that I love. I have a beautiful house to live in, a place of employment where I feel valued and enjoy working, a book recently published, opportunities to travel, interview and speak to groups, and all sorts of wonderful experiences on the horizon. My mental list went on and on and on. How could I not have seen that I am excellent? In fact, I’ve been excellent for a long time now! I loved that this stranger in inappropriate footwear offered me a response outside the norm.
On my way home, I encountered two men looking for directions. We stopped and talked a while, about the beauty of the landscape, about our gratitude for the day. Seems that the notion of excellence was spreading. And all it took was one shared word.