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Dreams and pessimism

By Merrill Ogden - | May 29, 2024

(Merrill didn’t get back from his road-trip vacation in time for the column deadline. Here’s a rerun which includes one of his favorite little stories.)

I’ve been around a few people who have been doing some traveling lately. My youngest son and his wife just got back from an Eastern Caribbean cruise recently. I’ve heard a report from them. They had a great time seeing exotic places and meeting interesting people.

When the subject of getting on a ship for a cruise vacation has come up in conversation with some people lately, I’ve heard some negative comments. Someone said to me, “You couldn’t pay me enough to get me on one of those floating “petri dishes” where everyone is bound to get sick.”

A friend of mine has very little (usually zero) desire to travel anywhere, anytime, for any reason. Traffic, crowds of people, air travel situations, illnesses, the unpredictability of weather, etc., all combine to support his attitude.

These events and conversations, as well hearing part of the Pope’s Easter message, has reminded me of a little amusing story that I heard many years ago.

I told it to my aforementioned friend and he seemed to like it. There are several variations to the story, but I, of course, like mine best. It goes like this.

A man was having his hair cut. As he sat in the barber’s chair he announced that he was taking a trip to Europe. The barber immediately questioned why the man would want to waste his money on such a frivolous trip.

The man explained that there were three things that he had always wanted to do in Europe. He had longed to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London. He yearned to see DaVinci’s famed “Mona Lisa” painting in the Louvre Museum in Paris. And he wanted to see the Pope in person on the balcony in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

The barber sneered and laughed at how naïve he was to think that the trip would be satisfying. He predicted that the crowds at Buckingham Palace would be so huge that he’d be lucky to catch a glimpse of the changing of the guard.

The barber told the man that he was foolish to believe that he would have any kind of a decent look at the “Mona Lisa” painting in Paris with all the people and security. And lastly, he explained that even if he did get to see the Pope, the pontiff would look like a tiny speck in the distance with the throngs of people bunched up in the square.

The man was not to be discouraged. He went on his long-dreamed-of European trip. Eventually, he returned to his barber. The barber, of course, wanted to hear a report, being certain that his predictions had come true.

The man was overwhelmed with enthusiasm as he told how wonderful the trip had been. It was beyond his wildest dreams. Not only did he have a perfect place to view the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, but the queen herself came by in her carriage. She caught the man’s eye and waved. She had the carriage stop and she shook the man’s hand. She autographed his guide book.

At the Louve, by some inexplicable circumstance, the man was able to view the “Mona Lisa” in solitude, being the only visitor in that particular gallery for about a half hour. He sat in undisturbed contemplation and pondered the portrait of the woman with the mysterious smile. It was a dream come true.

At the Vatican, he awaited the Pope with thousands of others. The Pope arrived in the “Popemobile” and for some strange reason stopped right by the man and invited him into the vehicle. Minutes later they were in the Pope’s private chambers and then they appeared together on the balcony and waved to the crowd in the square below.

The Pope then asked the man if he would like a blessing. The man, of course, was elated and knelt down and bowed. The Pope placed his hands on the man’s head.

As the barber could see that the man was about to finish his story, he excitedly asked, “What did the Pope say to you? What did he say?”

“This is what the Pope said to me,” the man slowly replied, “My son – where did you get that terrible haircut?'”

I love that joke – if you want to call it a joke. I believe that there are a few lessons that can be drawn from it.

No. 1) Don’t “rain on someone else’s parade” of hope and optimism. Keep your pessimism to yourself. Unless someone is going to do themselves irreparable harm, allow them to pursue their dreams.

No. 2) Realize that complainers are often not tending to their own work as well as they should. They’re too busy worrying about the business of other people to take care of their own business.

No. 3) Sometimes dreams come true. And when they do, the pessimistic complainers have to “eat crow.”

May all your dreams come true. And may all your haircuts be good ones. (But remember, the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is only about two weeks.) — Merrill


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