Humans think they can figure out anything.
It’s funny. We analyze and academically research the skills of extraordinary people, who simply taught themselves.
One of America’s greatest musicians, flatpick guitarist Doc Watson, died last week at age 89. Blind since infancy, Watson learned to play on a mail-order guitar he bought through working at his dad’s North Carolina sawmill. Decades later, Watson has thousands — perhaps millions — of pupils worldwide, who practice hour upon hour, longing to replicate his clean, melodic style.
Music technicians and scholars can study Watson endlessly, but in a nutshell, his virtuosity was, in his own words, “just country pickin’.”
The secret to success? Open the heart and play. Again. And again. And again.
A few years ago, I was asked to participate in a “Networking and Etiquette Workshop” at Indiana State University, conducted by the school’s career center. That worthwhile project aimed to teach students skills needed in social settings, such as formal dining and public seminars and meetings. Frankly, though I was recruited as one of several community members serving as random adults the students might encounter in real-world settings, the etiquette instructions enlightened me, too. (I now know it’s better to leave soup in the bottom of the bowl, than to pick it up and drink the last of it.)
A portion of that workshop included how to “correctly shake hands” and “approach people you do not know.” Both abilities are valuable — important enough for the University of Alabama to conduct a study of handshakes and their impact.
Those researchers at ’Bama and the students at ISU should have met Fred Poore.
Like Doc Watson’s guitar playing, Fred Poore greeted people naturally. He did so daily, all around downtown Terre Haute, open-hearted. Again. And again. And again, until his death on May 21 after being injured in a fire at the Garfield Towers apartments, where he lived. Fred was 61 years old, but his spirit was youthful and genuine. As Tribune-Star reporter Lisa Trigg wrote last Sunday, folks who knew Fred described him as autistic, but he lived self-sufficiently, held a job at McDonald’s, rode the city buses, and walked at an energetic pace through downtown.
His trademark, though, was his handshake and an incredible knack for remembering names.
I first met Fred on a bone-chilling January morning more than three years ago. Every Saturday at 8 a.m. at Coffee Grounds, a group of 20 to 30 guys from various churches gather there for Christian fellowship, and a friend asked me to join in. Sitting in groups of four or five around the coffeehouse’s wooden tables, we’d been talking for about 45 minutes, when Fred ambled in the door. Without hesitation, he walked up to each table and shook the hand of every man, before eventually sitting down to listen to the discussion. The regulars got a personal greeting, along with the handshake — “Hi, Tim,” “Hi, Larry,” “Hi, Jim,” “Hi, Steve.” He knew almost every name.
I was instantly amazed. It took me months to memorize barely half of those guys’ names.
Newcomers that morning, such as myself, had to identify ourselves for Fred, but we still got that earnest handshake. The next time Fred crossed our paths, he remembered us.
Business etiquette instructors often say the best handshake is one that is forgotten — a firm grip, but not bone-crunching, quick and not lingering. Yet, I can honestly say I will never forget the image of Fred reaching out to shake my hand and saying, “Hi, Mark.” Why? Because his greetings were completely sincere. He had no agenda. He made everyone he met — everyone, from every walk of life — feel special by knowing their name and shaking their hand.
College workshops and business seminars could guide students and young executives to copy his routine, and they would indeed become more convincing in future opportunities to “network.” As they shake hands and identify themselves, they’ll learn to repeat the other person’s name — increasing the chances of locking it into their memory.
Fred, though, didn’t just memorize names. He remembered the person on the other end of his handshake.
Since his passing, several of Fred’s many friends have suggested that we all could learn a lesson from his good-hearted nature. “He was a reminder of pure, innocent love, every day,” Donetta West, a waitress at Cackleberries restaurant — one of Fred’s favorite places — said in Lisa’s story last Sunday.
Terre Haute should act on those suggestions. Downtown has developed plenty of fun events and activities, all year long, celebrating various forms of music, foods and traditions. Why not add a Fred Poore Day? It could serve as a 24-hour reminder of the importance, and rarity, of friendliness and sincerity, full of handshakes and hellos.
This town should not forget Fred. After all, he worked hard to remember all of us. Again. And again. And again.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Humans think they can figure out anything.
RONN MOTT: Mushrooms = Hoosier happiness
Someone wrote or said a few years ago a statement that would define the word “Hoosier.” According to this urban legend, a Hoosier is somebody dribbling a basketball around the Indy 500 while eating a fried, morel mushroom. It did not define me, at the time.
EDITORIAL: Insult to an independent press
Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.
READERS' FORUM: May 17, 2013
Hinduism doesn’t deserve ridicule — Shefali Purohit, Terre Haute
RONN MOTT: Israel’s Air Force
Recently the Israeli Air Force bombed and rocketed a convoy leaving Syria going to Lebanon with rockets that were going to be used to attack Israel. It did not get there. It was destroyed.
EDITORIAL: Noteworthy in the news: Dashing finish for the Sycamores
It’s always thrilling to see Indiana State University’s athletic teams do well in high-level competition, and two specific teams rose to impressive heights last weekend in the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor track and field championships.
Readers' Forum: May 16, 2013
Moving Deming folks sounds ‘nuts’
Readers' Forum: May 15, 2013
Participants rise to the challenge: I would like to write a letter congratulating all the Wabash Valley Roadrunners that competed in the One America Indianapolis Mini Marathon.
RONN MOTT: Media merry-go-round
Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows. That isn’t a unique phrase to this writer or to this era in time. But, when it comes to the musical chairs of broadcasting, it certainly applies.
LIZ CIANCONE: Courts see a different appearance than cops
Have you ever noticed the transformation between the arrest of an accused lawbreaker and the first appearance in court?
READERS' FORUM: May 14, 2013
ISTEP failure exposes flaws
Community hasn’t changed its spirit
Egregious threat to nation’s defense
READERS' FORUM: May 13, 2013
• Women’s group criticizes Bucshon
• Let’s hope this doesn’t come true
• Many get thanks for fest success
MARK BENNETT: Life at face value: Mom’s simple advice still presents a valuable daily challenge
Most moms don’t base their advice on scientific research.
(Unless, of course, your mother is a scientific researcher. If so, carry a No. 2 pencil and take good notes.)
EDITORIAL: Better monitoring needed to prevent local environmental messes
The nasty, hazardous messes lurking in the community raise a bottom-line, red-flag question. Could these environmental problems have been monitored and, thus, prevented?
GUEST COLUMN: Nursing more than medicine and bandages
Being a nurse … Like most nurses, I chose this profession because I had a strong desire to help others and no other career would allow me the opportunity to touch lives the way I have been able to through nursing.
READERS' FORUM: May 12, 2013
Vigo Youth Football, entering 45th year, seeks new support
Media ignoring important case on abortions
Proud to be old-fashioned
Guns in school? What’s next?
Promoting hate not a ‘brave’ act
FLASHPOINT: Again in 2013 General Assembly, middle class generally ignored
Last year, the people of Indiana entrusted the Republican Party with some of their most precious possessions.
RONN MOTT: ‘Raccoons II’
In the Algonquin Indian language, raccoon means “working with hands.” They are really cute little fellows until they injure a child, or a pet, or leave feces around where you certainly do not want it.
Readers’ Forum: May 11, 2013
I just wanted to express my disappointment at the lack of response shown by President Obama after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Readers' Forum: May 10, 2013
CANDLES event plants new seed: On April 26, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center hosted an event called “Sowing Seeds of Peace: A Celebration of Spring” at the Apple House. Our purpose was to introduce people to our concept of forgiveness as a seed for peace.
RONN MOTT: ‘NRA Convention’
At the recent NRA Convention in Houston, Texas, where the right-wing political hot air almost lifted the convention's building off its foundation, the NRA trotted out the forever yours political dame of the right wing, Sarah Palin. Sarah did not disappoint.
EDITORIAL: Memo to U.S.A.: You can ‘SPPRAK’ just as we do in Vigo County
Our kids, truly, are ‘Making a Difference’
Some words in praise of boring government — Indiana’s
A conservative Republican governor has super majorities in both branches of the legislature. One might suspect such one-party government leads to major changes in public policy. This did not happen in 2013 in Indiana.
EDITORIAL: Doc’s prescient prescription
Viewed through a 2013 prism, Doc Bowen’s response to the AIDS epidemic looks merely prudent, routine.
RONN MOTT: ‘Heritage gone’
The last high school I attended was being torn down just a few days ago. I didn't learn about it until I saw classmate Dick Mills on television and a display he had put together about State football championships in the middle 1930's. I began elementary school with Dick Mills. That was Matthew South Elementary School on South Sixth Street in Clinton, Indiana. After seeing Dick on TV, it dawned on me that all schools I had attended in Clinton have been torn down.
LIZ CIANCONE: We always want more than we need
Washington seems more preoccupied with the unemployment rate than they are about the constant stalemate. Still with thousands out of work and the unemployment rate hovering somewhere between 7 percent and 9 percent, it does deserve more than a passing nod.
FLASHPOINT: Indiana lawmakers reinforced school safety mechanisms
Nothing is more important to me than the safety of my children. Every parent has felt that instant, apprehensive rush when their child plays too close to the street or falls down while playing soccer and it is our responsibility as parents to implement every safety mechanism we can muster to protect our kids.
READERS’ FORUM: May 6, 2013
• Money drives our newfound ‘needs’
• Guns not the only dangerous objects
MARK BENNETT: Should I stay or should I go?
Some have their Bill Clinton-era Cavalier packed (with the trunk bungee-ed shut), apartment cleaned (except for the fridge), and iPhone GPS locked onto the fastest route out of Terre Haute. Others are staying — until they find a better job, or because they’re starting a career here, or because this town feels like home. In each case, a new stage of life begins today.
EDITORIAL: Education remains worth the cost
Within the next few weeks, each of the local colleges will have conducted graduation ceremonies. A few days later, a different Class of 2013 will don caps and gowns for commencement — the seniors at five Vigo County high schools. It is still a smart, worthy aspiration for those high school grads to replicate the achievement of those college students by earning a higher-education degree.
College Class of '13 gets a little extra advice
Local college grads will hear commencement speakers offer life and career advice this month. We’re offering them an extra dose here from folks who’ve found success in various vocations and regions of the nation. Many have Terre Haute roots.
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