Today, I ran into one of the most inspiring people that I have ever had the honor of spending time with.
It brightened my day immediately to see him hunched beside the garbage bin, picking cigarette butts off the ground and into the garbage – all with a massive smile splitting his weathered, bearded face in two.
The conversation went something like this,
Jim: “Raff! I haven’t seen you around. I’ve missed that jovial face!”
Raff: “Jim! I haven’t seen YOU around in a while. You know I’ve missed that bearded grin! When do you head back to the sheep?”
Jim: ” What sheep?”
At this point, I had an internal bout of panic over whether I was mixing his life story with another person’s – as often happens in my muddled mess of memories. I mean, I probably should have seen the twinkle in his eye, or the mischievous tug at the corner of his lips, but I’ve always been gullible.
Jim: “Frankly, I’m offended.”
More panic – but I was SO sure that Jim was the sheep herder from Nepal.
Raff: “… But don’t you head back to Nepal soon to the sheep?”
Jim: “Raff, I am heading back to Nepal to my woman. Ever since I was a little boy and hit puberty I have been attracted to woman. I have never had any tendencies for sheep. That’s the New Zealand men”
And that’s Jim.
With a scruffy beard and wrinkles around his eyes that show a life of smiling, Jim is a sixty something world traveler who has devoted his life to recording and saving the knowledge from remote communities that is being lost today.
When he is not living in Nepal for half the year herding sheep, he lives in Lake and works for the park service.
I have never seen him without a smile on his face. When I walked into his place, his table was filled with books on sports conditioning, and when I asked him about it, his smile widened and he exclaimed, “I’m still convinced I’ll be the next star NFL quarterback, NBA point guard, and MLB shortstop”
His lust for life is contagious.
His whimsical nature began when he was young, hitchhiking when he was eight all the way from the middle of Alberta to Vancouver. When he was “captured” as he described it, he convinced his bewildered and fearful mother to come with him on the road so that she could experience for herself why he kept running away. This is his favorite memory of her, his suburban housewife mother, convinced by her eight year old son to forget her fear and get out into the world. Twenty years ago he lived behind the Dali Lama and met him several times, he owns and shepherds a flock of sheep for over half the year in the mountains of Nepal, and he genuinely – more than any one I have ever met – cares about people.
Jim is just an everything man, the wisest, most down to earth, yet absolutely enlightened human being I have ever had the chance to be around.
We’ve spent time talking about how obscene the arrogance of western culture is, how amazing opening yourself up to other people is, how much you can learn from every person that you come across.
He is so happy -so very enriched by the people he has shared his life with.
After the first time I spent an evening drinking beer and chatting at his place – after all of this, after being entirely humbled by his stories, amazed by his life, and full of respect for his outlook, he told me that it had been an honor to spend the evening with me.
No Jim, that honor was all mine.
I want to be you. I want to look at the world with such a sense of optimism and absolute unchangeable regard for the planet and its inhabitants. I find myself wishing for even a fraction of your enthusiasm for life and your ability to truly appreciate everyone and everything.
Every time I see you, I’m encouraged to be a better person. To enjoy the little things. To love. To just smile.