It was Saturday, a Halle Berry of an afternoon. I was piddling in the backyard. My retired neighbor was grilling burgers, that charcoal scent filling the air like the springtime version of Vatican incense.
We met by the fence. Started talking about the weather, then politics, then recent headlines in the newspaper, when my neighbor said this:
"Why don't you try something good?"
And I thought to myself: He's right. Bull's-eye right. There's not enough good in the news. Too often, I fall into the rut of only writing about what's wrong with the world instead of looking for what's right with it, like a game of I-Spy gone lopsided. Sure, there's plenty of terrible horribleness lurking around out there, but man does not live on bad news alone. We need the good too, maybe more so.
So I looked him in the eye. Made a solemn backyard promise. Told him my next column would be just about the good things in life. The sweetness. The dappled joy.
Like daffodils, I began.
And doggone it, the times when your wife's eeny-meeny-miny-mo-bracket beats yours, and all she did was choose teams based on the mascots she liked better.
How cold beer always tastes better at the ballpark, especially behind home plate.
The way your kid falls asleep on your shoulder, just before the good part of the bedtime story, and starts to make that tiny snore-noise, like a congested bluebird.
How the world never runs out of good people. Honest, straight as the horizon, right as rain.
Like the couple who found the envelope that fell out of my friend's car door. It had $1,000 in it. All hundreds. She cried, went driving in desperation all around town, trying to figure out where she'd left it. She finally stumbled home. Found a letter in her door. It was the envelope she'd lost. All the money was inside, along with a note from the couple who'd found it in the Walmart parking lot, saw the bank stub from her cashed check, found her address, and returned it, with not one penny missing.
The smell of a new book when you first open it. (What's that, Kindle? You can't download smells?)
The sound of baseball cards in a spoke coming down the cul-de-sac, a basketball falling through a chain hoop, a jump rope slapping the asphalt.
The taste of tears if you've been crying from laughing so hard.
The feeling of growing nausea as your son demands you ride with him as he attempts to break the Lake Winnepesaukah record for most consecutive trips on the Tilt-a-Whirl. (Seven, and my wife came off the bench to relieve me for the last three).
Couples holding hands in public.
Gay couples holding hands in public.
The fact that most airplanes don't go missing, most people don't murder each other, most car trips end quite safely.
The Seder meal. The direction of Mecca. The wisdom of the Gita. The ashes of Lent.
The way she still says Daddy even though she's old enough to just say Dad.
How the dog almost blows a heart valve with drooling excitement when he sees you, even though he just saw you five minutes earlier.
Legislation that works, lawmakers who tell the truth, and citizens who know how to raise hell for heavenly reasons.
White tablecloths, black coffee, pink sunrises and ...
My neighbor interrupted me. His burgers were sizzling.
"Son," he said. "What in the Sam Hill are you talking about?"
"You asked me to try something good for a change," I said. "To write a column that focuses on the positive, not negative. Right?"
"Try something good? I meant the grill," he said. "Why don't you try something good ... like a burger from the grill."
And honest neighbors.
Contact David Cook at email@example.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.
David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...