This is a repost of an essay I wrote in 2015 with minor modifications. Sorry for the repeat for some of my longer-term readers, but this is one of my favorite pieces of the ways we impact people and don’t even realize. It’s a busy week, so I didn’t have time to write something new.
The drop of a dubstep song and the scent of tequila: Las Vegas. A place where they pump extra oxygen into the casinos and clubs to keep you wide awake and dissipate the scent of cigarettes. I called it “home” for less than two years, but sometimes I feel I lived two decades inside them.
I like to believe that my life in Las Vegas made me a better person. It taught me so much about human interaction, the highs and the lows of life, and how you never know exactly what somebody else’s personal struggles are, no matter how perfect their makeup or how thick their wallet is. Living and working in Las Vegas was a study of the human condition – and how I can make someone’s day or night tremendously improved by my influence.
I had the enormous pleasure of being paid to bring people on incredible adventures. To celebrate their birthdays, their weddings and their special occasions. To find them drugs, or women, or the best table in the club. To make sure their friends got back to their hotel safely. There were so many people who told me “today is the best day of my life” and I was there, not only to witness it, but to help make it happen. It was immensely joyful, no matter how often it was their buzz talking.
I may have left Las Vegas, and the life where cash was handed to me and I was suddenly responsible for making sure someone else was happy. However, I aspire to the kind of life where I can profoundly positively affect someone else’s journey in a single interaction, perhaps even just in passing. I try to do this through so many avenues; from my writing, to my superfluous Facebook posts, to engaging, even briefly, with people who don’t obviously offer a direct benefit to me, they just seem nice. I realize at times I stretch my own bandwidth a bit thin, but I have a special appreciation for sincere kindness, and try to exercise it as often as I can.
I have been struck at times by stories people have told me, sometimes years later, of a single thing I did for them, or something I said, that hugely impacted their life, and I barely remember it.
One night in March of 2013, I had been out all night with a girlfriend, drinking and partying, when we headed home at some ungodly hour. We were both hungry, so we stopped off at this little Asian restaurant away from the Vegas Strip. We were the only people in the place, and were being silly and flirtatious with our server while ordering random items from the menu.
A cute, scruffy guy walked in and sat at a table not far from us, alone. We teasingly coaxed him over to us, making him sit at our table (the waiters laughed and encouraged us), we shared our meal and various stories of working within Vegas nightlife - the strange clientele, the environment, the benefits and the pitfalls. We were probably there for maybe 45 minutes hanging out and sharing stories and laughing.
I got his number, and friended him on Facebook. There is nothing about this story right now that makes it extraordinary in my life. I talk to strangers all the time. I invite random people into my world for fleeting moments and copious amounts of laughter. I was just being myself.
We all left at the same time and we hugged him goodbye before parting. I never saw him again.
On a random Saturday almost exactly 2 years later, I received an email in my inbox. It was from him. The subject line simply read “thank you”.
It was long, and it was beautiful and sad, and it was heartfelt. He described in several paragraphs the context of us meeting, of the years, months and days leading up to that night in March of 2013. His story was one of heartbreak, and depression, and utter hopelessness. He had decided to commit suicide.
The night before he planned to kill himself, he drove down the street to his favorite restaurant in Las Vegas to have a final meal alone. Two vibrant, warm and kind women invited him to their table, and shared a meal with him for less than an hour. That simple act of kindness sparked a small amount of hope and life inside him he had sworn was dead.
He reached out to tell me and thank me for what I never would have known otherwise: that I saved his life.
We’ve both moved away from Sin City, away from the neon lights and the secrets we may never tell another soul. We’re still friends on Facebook. Though I met him for less than an hour in March of 2013, and I don’t honestly know if I will ever see him again, I feel profoundly connected to him, and my heart could burst with the love I feel surge through me.
As I read his letter, I was blown away. Here it is, this thing I aspire to. To profoundly positively impact others’ lives without even knowing it. To simply be myself, and for myself to be enough to ignite hope, or passion, or joy. In this case – to save a fucking life.
I keep wanting to say thank you to him. Thanks for not giving up. Thanks for taking a chance on yourself. Thanks for being brave and getting through it. Thanks for reaching out when you were strong enough to tell me what I did that I didn’t even know. Thank you for validating the way I live on this planet, for making me feel like I am doing exactly what I intend to.
We live so much of our lives having to make quick judgement calls about what is worth our time and how we should behave. It’s powerful to realize that sometimes we’re just flying blind – with no idea what battles others are fighting below the surface. We cannot know. It would take more energy than any of us have to learn the particulars of every single person we come into contact with. However, we can live a life where we always try to err on the side of kindness to make up for that. That’s the life I want to live. Thank you, to the man who confirmed that’s the life I’m living.