Arrah sure you could tell there was something different about him. There was a sparkle in his eye. He had an energy about him that made him stand out from everyone else in the bustling Dublin café.
T’was no wonder the lady next to him struck up a conversation with him. After fifteen minutes or so, the lady bid her farewell and left to return to her workplace.
I saw my chance. With my cup of coffee in hand I made my way over.
‘May I join you?’.
‘Of course’, he said with a smile.
We spoke briefly about respective plans for Christmas. After which, he began to share stories with me from his own life. The stories, but probably more the wonderful, childlike, enthusiasm they were delivered with, had me captivated.
More and more, as we chatted, I realised I was going to have to get to the bottom of where this man’s vibrant energy was coming from.
‘Sorry, but I have to ask, how do you maintain such a youthful approach to life?’.
‘There’s a couple of things that I think are very important’, he responded.
‘Firstly, eat well.’
Makes sense, I thought to myself.
‘Secondly, sleep well’
I need to do a bit of work here. But I’m with him so far.
‘Don’t drink’, he added next.
Please be a joke. Please be a joke…
He clearly picked up on the utter dismay that must have been all too evident in my facial expression.
‘Well, you can allow yourself a social drink’.
‘Lead an active life’.
We’re back on track.
‘And when it’s raining outside, that’s when you definitely go and do your run or whatever’.
This guy’s good.
‘And when you’re tired, that’s when you go that little bit extra. That’s what gives you the good feeling’.
This guy’s a legend.
Aspirational, but let’s do it.
I’m a pacifist. This works.
‘Always talk to someone when you need to’.
I suddenly felt the urge to talk to someone.
He must have sensed this, as he paused and stared at me, intently and openly. But the moment and the urge passed. In an imperfect sequence.
‘That is a brilliant list’.
It’s all I could say at this point. He smiled in response.
We must have been chatting, all in all, for around forty-five minutes. We’d reached a natural and unspoken end.
I looked at his walking frame by his side and asked him if he needed help leaving.
He declined politely, with a defiant smile.
And so we said our goodbyes.
Something dawned on me walking back to the office. There’s so many books out there for sale on the art of living. People are paid big bucks to address audiences on living well.
And in a Dublin cafe on a Wednesday afternoon in December, a man in his eighties – with a sparkle in his eye – may well have given me the formula for free.