By JENNY PRUITT CLEVELAND
“And now you know the rest of the story.”
That sentence was the closing tagline of Paul Harvey’s radio program that came from the crackly speakers of a Volkswagen Bug on my way to school in the mid-70s and 80s. “The Rest of the Story” usually presented little known or forgotten facts on various subjects, usually with the name of some well-known player withheld until the end. Harvey’s storytelling gave me that “aha!” moment, as if now I stood above a puzzle with all the little cardboard pieces pressed nicely together – even that one piece I didn’t realize had been missing.
Most of us don’t have that luxury in real life. We’re dealing with our own little section of puzzle and rarely get to stand back and see how it all fits together.
My dad received this gift a few weeks ago. While making rounds at the nursing home one afternoon, a woman about his age approached him and asked, “Are you the Dr. Pruitt who had little girls?”
“Yes, that was me.”
“I have to tell you, you brought them here on Christmas Eve one year to visit my mother. She was so touched, she talked about it for the rest of her life. ‘Dr. Pruitt brought his daughters to see me for Christmas Eve.’ It made her feel so special.”
“This is one of those examples (there must be thousands of them),” my dad wrote to me, “where you touched someone’s life in a special and positive way and never knew about it.”
I remember going quite often with my dad as a child to make rounds at the hospital and nursing home. Sometimes I visited patient rooms with him. Sometimes I played with something interesting in the nurses’ station from the medicine supply cabinet, while avoiding scattered ashtrays (it was the 70s). Sometimes I pecked out little notes on a typewriter and made tongue depressor people with cotton hair for his secretary.
My dad’s right. We all have thousands of moments when we don’t know the difference we’ve made in someone else’s life. Sometimes it just happens. Sometimes it’s something we go out of our way to do.
An elderly man once gave me a rose, told me to have a wonderful day, smiled, and left me standing there in the canned vegetable aisle. A couple teenage boys once bought my bagful of groceries when they saw me sigh upon realizing I’d forgotten my wallet. An IHOP server once hugged my neck with tears in her eyes for the tip and handwritten note I left her on International Pancake Day (the absolute worst day of the year for any IHOP server).
Each of these moments have stayed as dear in my heart as I think our visit did for that patient on Christmas Eve.
My dad sums it up: “Rarely do we get to hear ‘the rest of the story.’ But what we do know is that when we greet people with joy and love and laughter, it makes a positive difference in their lives, maybe for an instant, or maybe for a lifetime.”
Jenny Pruitt Cleveland is a Content Creator in Nashville, Tenn. She swims, bikes, and runs a lot. In former lives she’s been a middle school teacher, magazine reporter and editor, cycling tour guide, and underwater photographer.