This is Judy. Judy and I have been going to the same hair salon for 12 years. For the first 10 years, I noticed Judy coming to get her hair done. I knew she was disabled by her gait and her cane. But despite her disability, she always dressed very stylishly, has multiple colored canes, has a hip hairstyle and a nose ring. She even used to have a bright red streak in her hair. For ten years I watched Judy come and go, progressively becoming more disabled, but never failing to dress nicely (often in purple) and silently I admired her from afar. In fact Judy is the person who inspired me to get my nose piercing. I had wanted to get my nose pierced for years, but 5 or so years ago I finally had it done, in large part due to Judy. I figured if she could rock a nose piercing, I could too.
Two years ago while I was silently watching Judy, I mentioned to one of the nail technicians, Mindy, that I admired her greatly and she was the reason I got a nose piercing. Mindy encouraged me to tell Judy, so I did. Mindy said she thought it would mean a lot to Judy to hear what I thought of her. So I walked up to her and introduced myself. I told her how I have been watching her and admiring her for 10 years. I told her that I noticed she is disabled but that she doesn't let it stop her from dressing stylishly, smiling, and rocking her nose piercing. I told her she inspired my own nose piercing. She grasped my hand in hers and we became friends as she told me her story.
You see, when Judy was 7 years old, her parents volunteered her to be part of a trial for the new polio vaccines, and she was one of the children who contracted Polio FROM the vaccine. I can't imagine the struggles Judy has had as a result during her life, what resentments she may or may not have as I've watched her steadily decline over the years due to her disability. She used to walk in to the Salon by herself, though now her husband assists her walking through the Salon as she is much unsteadier on her feet. As I talked with Judy and shared my admiration of her, her eyes filled with tears and she hugged me. She told me she'd never forget my name and she never has. I told her I admire her spunk and when I mentioned her nose piercing, she said if she was about 10 years younger, she'd get a lip piercing as well.
In the last year, Judy came up to me in the Salon and told me she had been having a particularly hard time emotionally, struggling with her degenerative disability. But then she remembered my "kind words" to her and it helped her get through that time. I was so honored that by approaching her and sharing my admiration of her, I was able to help her through a hard time down the road. After that, we exchanged contact information so that she could reach out to me any time she wanted to.
And to think, I just admired Judy from afar for ten years and would have continued to do so, had Mindy not encouraged me to talk to her.
I learned a very valuable lesson through that experience. By introducing myself to Judy and telling her what I had been thinking of her all these years, I not only made a friend but I managed to encourage Judy at a later time when she had been home, struggling with depression over her increasing lack of mobility.
I haven't made this mistake again. Now when I admire someone, I go up to them and tell them. They may think I'm some crazy stranger for approaching them, but maybe just maybe I am giving them the encouragement they may need at that moment.
So next time you admire someone, don't worry about what they may think of you. Tell them. You might just make their day.