“An Unlikely Reminder,” May 14, 2019

Someone sent me an email about a gas station in South Africa, where the owner posts daily “inspirational” quotes on a chalkboard in plain view of customers and passing drivers.

The email included some of the quotes, such as:

_ “It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd that’s going in the wrong direction.”

_ “When you forgive, you heal. When you let go, you grow.”

_ “I am a woman. What’s your superpower?”

_ “If you had to choose between drinking wine every day and being skinny, what would you choose? Red or white?”

_ “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Most of the quotes were thought provoking, even the funny ones. OK, especially the funny ones. But one quote was, for me, an entirely new thought: “Be who you needed when you were young.”

What does that mean? Is it suggesting we should be the kind of person we needed when we were young — for ourselves? Or that we should do it for our children and grandchildren and other young people we meet?

Maybe we should do it for all of us, young and old alike?

Here’s another question. Do you think it’s possible that the kind of person we needed when we were young is also the kind of person we’re meant to be?

Perhaps you’re wondering, with all the problems in the world, why would I choose to give so much thought to a quote from a gas station chalkboard?

I wonder that, too. But it’s not really a choice. Sometimes when my train of thought leaves the station, I just have to jump on board and see where it takes me. I’ve been riding this train for days, thinking about a person I needed when I was young.

My mother worked shifts at a mill, had four children, eight sisters, a demanding mother and little time for friends. But one day when I was 12, I came home from school and found her on the porch sipping sweet iced tea with the prettiest lady I had ever seen.

“Hello, child!” said the woman, cupping my face in her hands as my mother introduced us. I was hopelessly smitten.

Her name was May, a perfect name for someone as lovely and warm as the finest day of spring. Short dark hair, curled just so. Red lipstick. Brown eyes that lit up like fireworks when she smiled. And she smiled a lot, it seemed, especially at me.

She was my mother’s friend, but she became what I needed: A role model, a confidante and a grownup friend whose wise counsel I could always trust.

In the next few years, I spent as much time as I possibly could with May, sometimes overnight at her home, talking, laughing, crying, whatever, just being together. I told her everything, all the things I feared, all the things I hoped for and especially all the things I didn’t know.

I watched her the way a cat watches a butterfly. How she listened and encouraged and never spoke ill of anyone, even if they had it coming. How she was always compassionate and kind, not just to me, but to everyone, even strangers.

She was a woman of faith and grace and integrity, with a quick wit and a grand sense of humor.

I wanted to be just like her.

After I left home for college, May moved away and I never heard from her again. Years later, when I tried to reconnect, I was shocked to learn that she had died. I had been so sure that she would live forever. I don’t know if I told her how much she meant to me. I hope so.

How many souls do you think leave this world never knowing what they meant to someone?

Sometimes the best reminders come from unlikely places. Thanks to a quote from a gas station chalkboard, I thought of my friend May, someone I needed when I was young and still hope to be just like.

We don’t always mirror people we admire. But remembering them reminds us to keep trying.


  1. Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so
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  2. Dominic Murgido says

    Thank you Sharon for this wonderful reminder that everyday we are blessed with people that care about us, influence us, encourage us and just are there for us. It is so important to remember to share with them how much they have helped us and to be grateful for the presence in our lives. Unfortunately it took the sudden unexpected death of my wife for me to even begin letting those know around me how much I appreciate them in my life. Life is a gift.

  3. Anita Ryan says

    Thank you, Sharon for another touching article. This one brought to mind the many people, both known and unknown, who have crossed my path, touched me and added something special to my life.

  4. Mona Lisa Garcia says

    Thank you, Sharon, for sharing your wonderful thoughts!
    Your writing reminds me of a famous San Francisco columnist, Herb Caen.(sp)
    Your eloquent prose is soothing to my soul.
    I don’t get to read you regularly, but when I do, it seems a message is there, just for me, like a message written in the sky!
    Thank you so much!
    I am blessed to be able to read, and enjoy, your words of humor and wisdom.
    Take care and God Bless you

  5. Laura Holland says

    Dear Sharon!
    I spent the better part of this afternoon searching for an article you had written “Tips for a happy marriage make for best wedding present”. I had made a copy a couple of years ago! I finally found it , then pent the rest of the afternoon crying and laughing while reading your columns. I enjoy your stories immensely! My youngest son will be getting married in a couple of weeks. His Fiance is a beautiful smart and loving person and I love her dearly. I am working on composing a letter to both of them. Hoping to pass along some good advice. If it is OK with you I will enclose your article along with my letter. I look forward to spending more time reading your articles! Thank you for a wonderful afternoon. I felt like I was visiting a dear friend!

    • Mona Lisa Garcia says

      You’re very sweet, with your positive and beautifully spoken words to Sharon Randall.
      Isn’t she awesome??
      You have been read, and your message encouraged me to respond. I felt good, after reading your thoughts.
      Have a wonderful week! Oh! And may your Son’s wedding be wonderful!!
      Take care, Kind Person.

  6. Kate Sciacca says

    Wow. That had me thinking… lots. Thank you. Never really considered it, but yes —- I’ve been “the person I needed when I was young” for the past decade or so. Didn’t really have a grandma when I was young… never realized til reading your take on that phrase that “being the grandma I never had” is exactly what I’ve been doing! Maybe that’s why my heart is so light when I head west… and so dang heavy (as it was this morning) when I head east. Again, thank you 🙂

  7. Terry Andry says

    Sharon, I am thinking several years ago you wrote about May. I remember reading how much you cared for her. Which made me think just my how many years I have been reading your column. Many many years for sure. Love your writings. So before one of us checks out of this world I thank you for the years of getting us to be thankful.

  8. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this, Sharon!!!!!!!!!!

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