Have you ever had one of those days where you just want to bang your head against a wall? Sometimes it may be someone else's head you have in mind, but the end result is the same. Male or female, you want to cry. Don't bother to say you don't, because I've heard children wail over pain or anger before, especially in a ridiculously long checkout line, and every grownup still has a little kid inside that wants to have a good sniffle every now and then.
Last week I had a string of days like that. First off, an autumn cold danced around my nasal passages and ran down my throat. My office tissue box emptied pretty quickly so I grabbed paper towels, napkins, toilet paper and receipts out of my purse to stop the flow. Since none of those questionable toiletries are laced with soothing lotion, my nostrils and upper lip chapped and cracked.
Then I scratched an itch on my arm, one of those good, thorough scrapes, with the end of a pen. I was sitting in the back row during an Ottawa Council meeting and was trying to make sense of a complicated charter issue. Since I used the wrong end of the pen, my arm and a good bit of a new sweater were pretty well decorated. I spit-washed my arm, also during the meeting, and now village employees and a few local citizens probably question the hygiene of this managing editor. Thank goodness my tape player was up front and recording. I'm still trying to figure out the discussion.
And I just felt yucky. I think a lot of folks did; a mean-spirited kind of nastiness. Maybe it was the government shutdown and looming debt crisis. But I don't think so, because even our normally good-natured donkey chased the chickens, goats and dog a few times. Must have been something in air, residual corn smut as the fields came off.
The big stain of late as been front-page news since I arrived behind this desk. In a small community, or in a county connected by them, nothing goes unnoticed. When it's a big, vicious incident that leads to a plea of guilty to murder, the shadow is everywhere. As I laid out the front page of last week's newspaper, the shadow of it was so, so dark.
On Tuesday, as we approached printing deadline, Kristen, Queen of Sales, leaned in my door and told me that I needed to speak to someone up front. At the front counter stood a most bizarre little person. She wore multi-colored flowered leggings, blue Under Armour, a red eye mask and a red cape. And she carried a giant yellow smiley face.
The self-professed A-OK Lady was, and still is, driving around Ohio in her little black Honda, promoting the Kindness Exchange. The goals of the project are "to inspire, motivate and encourage individuals to reach out and connect more on a daily basis". I posed for her camera, with the giant smiley face, next to the newspaper logo printed on the lobby wall. She poured a small pile of plastic yellow smiley faces on the counter and left.
We all tittered and rolled our eyes. I mean, what a weirdo. Someone scattered the little smiley faces across my desk. I tossed them around the break room.
I didn't think much about the visit for a few days, just continued to stew in my own juices, until today. I had a column of randomness all penned. Then I uncovered the packet of materials left by the A-OK Lady.
Turns out Susann Castore, aka the A-OK Lady, is the survivor of decades of abuse, suicide attempts and, until recently, misdiagnosed bipolar disorder. She is a licensed counselor in both Ohio and Georgia. Castore believes so strongly in helping others avoid the pain she has suffered in her life that she established HopeScapes, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which is an umbrella for the Kindness Exchange. She has received a commendation from Governor Kasich, a copy of which is on my desk.
In her materials, Castore says, "Smiles are the spirits of goodness and goodwill in ourselves and others and helps us create, in the process, a spirit of integrity, trust and openness to help diffuse hatred and violence, prejudice and misunderstanding."
I don't know if the A-OK Lady was leading me on, if she's having a good laugh at all of Ohio. I don't think so, and I don't care because her message is spot on. She didn't ask for money and she's certainly got spunk if she's willing to run around Northwest Ohio in a cape and tights two weeks before Halloween.
Thanks for listening. Tip your waiter more than 15 percent, hold the door for the person behind you and leave a few more smiles in your wake.