Last night, someone I respect and admire paid me a great compliment, but let me give you a little back story first.
Back in 1999, when I was editing my first magazine, and not really sure what I was doing but pressing forward anyway, I somehow attracted the attention of one of Barbados’ prominent and well known journalists.
It wasn’t the kind of passing, knock the cub kind of thing.
He made it a point to call me on the day of every issue of the magazine, and greatly encouraged and frankly expressed his admiration for me and my work as a journalist.
For me, it was very flattering, and he pushed me to maintain my standards, but as well it struck me deeply on a personal level. We never met before, and to this day we haven’t met in person, but his frank admiration has done wonders for my self esteem.
Once, after a particularly good issue, he called me up and said, “You can make it anywhere in the world, and I think you should do it. Your vision is very sharp and you’re a real talent. You’re wasting it here in Barbados.”
Well that comment stuck with me for years. The point is, he came quite out of the blue into my sphere of existence, at a time when I needed someone to encourage me at what I was doing. He became a great cheerleader for me, and his weekly phone calls kept me both humble and instilled a certain pride in what I was doing.
What touches me I guess by his comments and reaching out to me, is mostly because there is a connection between us; neither one of us talk about it, but goes back generations. Yet I don’t know if he is aware of it. Certainly, I wouldn’t tell him or bring it up, because it’s one of ‘those types’ of things. I know, so it makes his phone calls even more meaningful to me.
I kept in touch with him after I left that job, just to let him know I was alright, but after I left to go to Trinidad, I lost contact with him. His comments still stuck with me though. Although I still make mistakes, I struggle to improve my efforts and help other people. I guess he was part of the reason why I chose to leave the Caribbean in the first place. I needed people to push me, encourage me.
So last night, bone weary and dispirited from the last week—-no forgive me, the last two weeks of labour–I turned out the light at 8pm and tried to get some sleep.
I was kind of tossing and turning, and then my cell phone rang. When I answered, this booming basso profundo voice on the other end, “Hello, Ms. Lord this is a voice from the past calling.”
The sound stirred chords of memory, but I was muffled by sleep and well….
“Who is this?” I politely enquired.
“This is one of your biggest fans,” the person added.
“Well I think I have many fans, but this voice is very familiar,” I said. “I just can’t call the name right now.”
“Well think back to your days at HYPE,” he prompted and chuckled to himself.
“Oh lord, you calling some years now and I ain’t so young again.”
Then he revealed his name. You could have pushed me over with a feather I was so shocked!
He told me he was going through his old address book and found the number to my mother’s house and called to see if I was there, and of course probably had a long conversation with my mother regarding my activities, got my number and well called me up, “You know how I am a great admirer of your work.”
“My dear,” he says, “Be heartened and encouraged, don’t let the fuckers get you down. Your talent is great and you are going to continue to do great things. You’re a bright spark in the world, so don’t you let anyone or anything get you down.”
Again, I was deeply moved. One, that he never forgot me, and two, that he would call me all the way in England to wish me the best and to keep in touch with me and encourage me.
It’s rare to attract that kind of attention from just regular people. He however has been a journalist longer than I have been alive, believe that; well known and respected. We chatted for nearly a half an hour, and he even tried to get my mother on the telephone but she wasn’t home yet.
In the end we exchanged numbers and addresses and promised to keep up the communication.
It was a wonderful way to be jarred out of sleep and it kind of amazes me the power of words…
This man responded to my words and has kept track of me ever since because of it.
You know, those are things money cannot buy, cannot quantify. These are the things that make working hard like shite worth it.
2012 update: RIP Desmond. You will be missed.