Little things count. And no one taught me that lesson more than my father.
My dad was a frequent business traveler. I’m not exactly sure where he went. Or what he did while away. I just knew that every few weeks he’d leave the house early to catch a flight to some other city. I never really thought too much about the details of his adventures or itinerary.
I only cared about one thing.
That he’d return home with something for me.
And as best as I remember, he always did.
He didn’t bring T-shirts, snow globes, or pennants with pro sports teams. He had five sons. So he had to be careful with any precedent setting — and costs.
What he brought me was bar of soap. Travel soap. From his hotel room. And I loved receiving it. It was a childhood equivalent to receiving the key to a city from the mayor. I was fascinated by the different names stamped on the wrapper. Howard Johnson, Holiday Inn, The Calgary Inn. I treated my soap like baseball trading cards. In fact, I believe I was the only kid in the neighborhood who didn’t have a cherished baseball card collection. Why would I? I had a drawer full of soap from faraway places. And each one was carried home specifically for me from my dad.
Did I care that I eventually had numerous duplicate bars of soap from the same hotel? Not a chance. Was I crushed when an occasional bar would arrive home broken or dented as it bumped around on its journey to me? Nope.
I didn’t mind the aroma permeating from the special bathroom drawer I used as the sacred holding place for all the soap and I gladly ignored the teasing from my older brothers who complained about the flowery fragrance in our shared bathroom.
I simply cared that I got my bar of soap. Each trip. Every time.
It was one of the many things that reminded me that my dad was thinking of me.
I woke up this morning in an $89 a night motel near the Atlanta airport. Atlanta. I hadn’t planned on staying there. But bad weather, a missed connection, and a couple other surprises created my overnight excursion to the Peachtree City. It wasn’t the best of motels. It wasn’t all that clean. The bed had seen better days. And I heard doors slamming throughout the night.
As I hurried to get ready this morning and catch my flight, I noticed two bars of soap stacked neatly next to the bathroom sink. Both were wrapped in generic white paper. And both were stamped with the words “Have a Good Day!”
And I did what felt natural. I put one of the bars in my briefcase to carry home and throw in my bathroom drawer.
On my flight home to Chicago, I realized that I could smell the bar of soap tucked away in my briefcase. I’m sure everyone in rows 13, 14, and 15 could, as well. Then again, maybe they didn’t notice. Everyone within eye distance of me was doing what I normally do on a plane: work. Organize. Fill out forms.
But today I didn’t do any of those things. I let that bar of soap remind me to stop and think about the pace of my life. The rhythm I’ve let myself get into. And as my seatmate tapped away on his laptop, I realized I needed to tear a lesson out of the storybook of my dad’s life.
When I arrived home, I found my teenage son lying on the couch playing video games. As usual.
“Hey Dad,” was all I got.
I set my bags down. Unzipped my briefcase and grabbed the bar of soap.
“Here ya go,” I said as I tossed it on his chest.
“What the…,” he started to say.
“It’s stupid,” I said to him. “But humor me and get dressed. We’re going out for lunch.”