The week before Thanksgiving I had an unusual compliment paid to me. It was awkward in a way because the guy who was giving it to me was trying to skirt around the fact that indeed he was paying me a compliment, off the cuff as it was.
I know this guy from a couple mutual friends and we see each other down at the local pub in this town where I am at the moment. We don’t socialize together outside the pub but when we do bump into each other we always say hello, rib each other a bit, and sometimes have a deep discussion or two. He is a coal miner and seems alright in a general sense.
Four or five years ago …. I guess it would’ve been just before the 2008 election …. we had this really heated debate about climate change and I made the comment that there was no such thing as ‘real’ clean coal and it was a fossil fuel and that like all fossil fuels its days are numbered. I still believe that although I have always argued that the coal and oil guys should be the first to be retrained in green jobs so they don’t end up out of work and unemployable.
Well, this stance didn’t sit well with him and we traded some barbs and he even made a couple racial remarks including giving me a Nazi salute once or twice. Now, you would think this is unusual but I am in an area with some of the largest concentrations of white supremacists around. The FBI has raided here who knows how many times and to counter this fact, I should point out there are black militant groups here as well. A love fest this area isn’t.
I knew the salute was just to irk me but if it came down to it he wouldn’t do violence to anyone who didn’t take a swing at him first. I wasn’t too worried about it and he enjoyed playing the agitator. I am curious how the racial attitudes will play out in the future because the Chinese have been in town trying to move in on the coal. That is for another post though.
Well, as I said he approached me the week before Thanksgiving and set his beer down on a the table where I had just finished a poker game. After the hello’s and ‘how you been’ formalities, he said, “You know, things happen in life to teach you a lesson.” I thought, “uh, oh. This should be good.”
Then he went on to remind me of the argument we had back then and how at first he thought I was crazy and he was bound and determined not to let anyone take his job. He had kids to feed. Unlike many, I can actually understand a person taking that position in the sense I can see where they are coming from in their sentiments. He then proceeded to tell me though how since then he has thought of what I had said, and watched what has happened to the planet, and come to realize that climate change is real and that coal may have to go. He even said that while he still doesn’t want to lose his job (who does?) he can see where it is a dying industry. Apparently, as he put it, I had come along to make the case and plant a seed that grew in his mind. Lesson learned.
I admit I was surprised. Well, I was surprised he remembered the argument. After all, I haven’t dwelled on it a lot since then and we’ve never discussed it since that time. It also seemed a little daunting that a conversation like that had carried such an impact. I’m not that persuasive but words do have their own power and people’s paths cross for a reason even if they aren’t apparent. You may not know it, and your life may seem dull or you may feel you have little if any influence at all, but truth is you’re like a ripple in a big pond that no matter how small will create other little ripples along the way. It was an awkward compliment but a lesson in how we are used without realizing it from time to time.