Painting ©2018 John Clark III
I interviewed a fella a few hours ago who turns 100 years old on Friday.
Such an honor for me.
Just now, I was looking at a photograph I took of him sitting in his easy chair, with one of his daughters on one side and one of his granddaughters on the other side. All were smiling brightly, with a joy and happiness radiating from their expressions that was remarkable.
I didn't notice it while I was there, talking to this quiet, rugged, gentle old man and his girls. It dawned on me later, as I decided which photo to use when this story runs in Friday's paper.
It was love. Pride.
Family pride and love.
Interviewing people and writing their stories is something I love to do.
Their stories constantly amaze me, and almost always reinforce something that it took me a long time to find out -- down deep inside, behind the masks, the pain and suffering, hurts and disappointments, tragedies and triumphs, different backgrounds and upbringings, all of us humans are pretty much the same.
Granted, there are mean people out there who enjoy hurting other people, and there is evil in the world, to be sure, but for most of us, we are all just out there slugging away, doing the best we can to be happy.
Today, I spent an hour with a guy I'd never met, a Desert Storm veteran who is now disabled, ostensibly to talk about the impressive comic book collection he has amassed since leaving the military 20 years ago. As he showed off different parts of the collection, he somewhat casually mentioned seeing his stepfather beat his mother to death when he was 10 years old.
He continued talking, as if this little detail from his past was just another day in the life, until I said, "Uh, hang on a second, Mike. Let's go back to that for a minute."
Imagine this being your life story: growing up in a family of eight kids in the deep South, in the midst of poverty and abuse, moving back and forth across various states, never staying in one place for more than six months; watching your mother beaten to death by your abusive stepfather; living the next eight years in a children's home; joining the Army, seeing buddies die and seeing yourself kill enemy soldiers; experiencing the death of your only child; being discharged from the Army and coming down with an untreatable, apparently lifelong medical condition.
That is not the amazing part of the story, though. The amazing part is that this guy says he has had a great life. He has no complaints, and is perfectly happy and content. Even if he could, he wouldn't change a thing.
"I have more to be thankful for than I have to not be thankful for," he told me. "What do I have to complain about?"
Oh, and he's got a great comic book collection. Did you know that, back in the day, Superman couldn't fly and didn't have x-ray vision?
Well, now you know.
A few reviews of John's books
The 30-Day Optimism Solution:
“Part memoir, part informative text. You get both when reading 'Depression Blues' by John H. Clark III. Mr. Clark shares his struggles with depression in an honest and real way, and as the book progresses, so does his hope. Woven into the story as jumping off points are bits of information about depression and ways to "conquer" the sadness, loneliness, and despair that comes with it.
Mr. Clark becomes more than an author in this book; he becomes a friend who understands the pain of depression and provides light. I recommend this book to anyone looking for light or to anyone who knows someone with depression and wants to learn more.”
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