"Sir, You're Beautiful!"

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

So, I'm walking along Sonoma Ave in my hometown, toting a cloth bag with a few books I'm donating to the library. I'm dressed in my sunny California uniform, shorts, t-shirt and a battered Oakland A's baseball cap.

Along comes a middle-aged, slightly overweight woman approaching me from the opposite direction. Her face lights up in a smile. "Sir, you are beautiful,"she says. WAIT! WHAT DID SHE SAY? Caught off guard, I do manage to return the smile and answer, "You're great,too."

I continue walking for a moment, stunned by what just happened. Did a perfect stranger just tell this seventy-seven year old geezer that he was BEAUTIFUL? Whoa! Wait a second. That craggy face that looks back at me from my bathroom mirror….beautiful? No, maybe if my mom were still alive, she might think me beautiful but no one else. I like to think I may have other good qualities, but beautiful I ain't.

Still, I have to admit that the woman's comment had put a spring in my step. For the next few blocks I sort of floated down the street feeling like the inimitable Ali who could "fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee." Crazy, isn't it, how an unexpected compliment can give you a lift?

The experience got me to thinking that maybe I have been too stingy in the compliments department. Hey, it doesn't cost me a penny to tell someone "You're looking good today." What's the big deal?

It's not like we are all walking around with a finite amount of compliments in our good deeds savings account. Whoops! I already told my son that he's a nice kid just yesterday. I'd better hold off. I'm spending too much of my "compliments account." Here's the deal. The more generous we are in recognizing others, the more our account grows.

I was brought up in an Irish Catholic family that was decidedly sparing with their compliments. The mortal sin in our house was "spoiling" anyone. God forbid that anyone should be made to feel proud of what he had done or, even more, how he looked.

We have come a long way from that kind of thinking in today's world. Some would argue we have gone too far in the opposite direction. The cult of self-esteem rules. Maybe so.

Still, for most of us who struggle through life, only too aware of our flaws and limitations, it's nice to get a compliment from someone. And, if we feel good receiving an encouraging word, what keeps us from going out and returning the compliment to a friend or even a stranger? What does it cost us?

Hey reader….."You're beautiful!"