You don’t need many—or any—words to make a difference in someone’s life. You can brighten someone’s day your own way, as the introvert you are.
Don Anderson was remarkable.
He served in the U.S. Army during the demobilization period of World War II, working as a baker on a ship assigned to the Pacific region.
He was an accomplished musician, having taught himself to play trumpet, piano, accordion, ukulele, and violin.
He proved that the concept of football fan is short for fanatic: At one point he had seven VCRs running each day to record all the college and professional games he wanted to (eventually) watch.
A trained accountant, he even kept doing taxes for several family businesses and long-time clients until he was almost 90 years old.
A Quiet Source of Daily Joy
Sadly, I learned all of this as I read Anderson’s obituary in his hometown newspaper, The Bemidji (Minnesota) Pioneer.
He died a few years back at the age of 93, after a short battle with cancer.
But in a separate story, The Pioneer highlighted yet one more way Anderson stood out:
For more than 30 years, he silently but reliably touched the lives of passers-by, many of them college students, as they walked past his home on 14th Street near the campus of Bemidji State University.
To these people, Anderson was, simply, the man in the window.
Day after day, he made their days by simply sitting at his living room picture window, smiling at them, and waving.
No words necessary.
“So many people said they didn’t ever talk to him; they just waved and smiled through the window and it made them feel good,” Anderson’s son Tim told The Pioneer.
“They’d go out of their way to get their daily wave and smile from the man in the window.”
So when Anderson passed away, the family placed a small poster on the window, letting passers-by know what had happened.
“We didn’t know how to thank them all,” Tim said, “because we don’t know them. But he knew them through the window.”
And when the cards started rolling in, Tim and his family began to see that the passers-by knew—and, in their own way, treasured—their father, too.
Make a Difference Without a Word
“I have been waving to your dad for I believe four years,” wrote one card sender, a recent BSU graduate:
“It made my day so much that I would find myself going out of my way to either drive by or walk by your dad’s house to smile and wave to him, even if I needed to be on the opposite side of campus.”
“Even though we both only shared brief smiles and waves with your dad, he meant a lot to us and was a source of constant positivity throughout our college days,” read the card that came from two other BSU graduates.
“He was an amazing man.”
He sure was.
And he pulled it off in his own introverted way, without ever saying a word to the recipients of his warmth.
“In today’s world,” son Tim stressed, “we need that kind of connection.”