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Finneran: Wisdom From the Deli Counter

Friday, November 03, 2017


“Best day of my life”............

Those were the words spoken by the guy in the deli department. I had greeted a few fellow early morning shoppers and I called out a casual how ya’ doin’ to the deli guy.

“Best day of my life” was his reply.

Ah, I thought, he has the wisdom of rabbis. He knows that the past is indeed past and that the future is uncertain.  He knows that today is the gift. He knows that life is the gift. And he intends to live it with a smile.

He put a spring in my step, so much so that the eternal line at the no-more-than-ten-items register seemed to be a great opportunity to smile and joke around with my fellow in-a-rush shoppers.

It didn’t take long.........pretty soon we were all laughing, teasing, joking, and flirting, fully aware that any pressure we were feeling was self-inflicted nonsense. The deli guy could give lessons on messaging  to priests and ministers. And the takeaway would be for all of us to lighten up, to look around, to see and hear, and to smile. Smile more, a lot more, at life’s many blessings.

I’m sure that the deli guy carries his own bag of rocks. Everyone has them and everyone lugs those invisible anxieties of life. It might be an aging parent or a lost friend. It might be a medical challenge or a relationship gone bad. Perhaps it’s a financial or employment worry. As real and as heavy as those rocks can be, the deli guy’s five word sermon lifts our eyes and straightens our backs.

I half-skipped across the parking lot and put on my stand-by radio station, WUMB out of UMass Boston. It’s a great station where the music is of immense variety---country, rock, soul, blues--- and the commentary provides fascinating history. Lo and behold, a gift for my ears, they were playing Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally. Talk about toe-tapping music, talk about smiling at every red light, talk about dancing while wearing a seat belt.............Mustang Sally was the spark for all of it. As is all good music.

My drive home was not that far but the deli guy’s inspiration lingered. I slowed down a bit and took note of the changing foliage---yes, stunning foliage scenery right here in Boston itself. Granted it’s not the mountains of New Hampshire or Vermont where those show-stopping sugar maples stretch for as far as the eye can see, but each city shrub and each city tree makes its own individual statement, like a diamond sitting in sand.

Indeed, I had noted the beauty of the land a few days earlier on a weekend drive to the Cape. I was on Route 3 South and the colors which caught my eye created a heavenly palette---beautiful blue sky, shimmering red, orange, and yellow leaves, and later in the day, a beautiful sunset over Cape Cod Bay. A friend of mine calls those spectacular sunrises and sunsets an example of God playing with his paintbrushes. It’s a great line.

Even as the brilliant foliage fades to drab brown, even as we hunch our shoulders against winter’s chill, the right attitude, the right outlook can carry us a long way each day. We know that each short day we endure brings us closer to the long days and many delights of May and June. We know that the snow we gripe about is good for the fields and orchards. Those peaches and apples we pick during the high seasons get a strong start from the snows of winter and the spring melts which follow............

Speaking of snow and speaking of the wise man at the deli counter, try this out---when the forecast is for evening or very early morning snow, step outside, stand still, and open your ears. Even here in the heart of the city, just yards from a major street and close to active police and fire stations, you can hear the sound of snow falling. It’s such a soft and gentle rustling sound, peaceful, restful, and in harmony with the deli guy’s outlook..........best day of your life indeed.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


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