Leroy, the Toothless Prophet

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected sources.

I recently found myself with a few hours in between meetings. Not being one to waste time, I entered a coffee shop, planning to get some work done.  I grabbed the best available seat – one in the sun, right next to a toothless man with yellowed eyes and well-worn clothes.

I immediately pulled out my journal and started writing. After several minutes, the man, whom I would soon learn was named Leroy, said to me, “You work a lot, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. “Though I’m not sure I get much done.”

I put my journal aside, and we began to chat – not just about the weather or our coffee selections, but about more substantial topics, like loneliness and staying out of trouble. When he announced with pride that he had never gone to jail, something I would have never considered a great achievement, I got curious about this man whose experiences had clearly been so different from my own.

While we had taken different paths in life, Leroy understood my journey better than I would have imagined. As I sat there, staring out the window, he asked, “What are you thinking about?”

“Sometimes I just feel so lost,” I said. 

“Oh, you’re not lost,” he said, tapping his temple with his crooked index finger. “You just think too much.”

The tiniest tear rolled down my face as I said, “You’re probably right.”

His words – “You think too much” – have stuck with me. Other people have told me the same thing many times, but it never registered … until Leroy said it. When the student is ready, the teacher appears, right?

The truth is that I do think too much! And sometimes I forget how powerful our thoughts can be and how they shape our realities – for better, or for worse.  

His words caused me stop and hear what I was thinking, which was about lack and self-pity. The look on his face and tone of his voice were so matter-of-fact, as if he was saying, “Are you crazy! Stop thinking about that stuff. Focus on thinking about all you`ve already become.” I felt honored that he cared enough to take a stand for my happiness.

Thanks, Leroy, for the reminder I needed to hear at the moment I needed to hear it!

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes.

What lessons have you learned recently?


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