Updated: May 8, 2019
Today I had coffee with a young man thirty seconds after we met. And I was blown away.
Dan Naylor is 31, has cerebral palsy and said "Hello, hope you have a good day" to every person that walked by, most by their first name. It's hard for him to raise his right hand, but he waves as he places his pinky and thumb in the Hawaiian "hang loose" sign and smiled.
Their response was distinct, loving, and effusive, as if they were looking at a baby or a puppy. Dan holds that type of energy. There is no pretense or anger. He is uncommonly genuine. His kindness pulls you in.
Dan, or "Dan The Man" as seen on his hat and t-shirt, speaks deliberately. He has few noticeable tremors. "It's hard to wake up every day and do what I do. I've got aches and pains like an old person. I have cerebral palsy on my left side and ataxia on my right."
I asked him how long he's felt this way. "Since I was seven years old. I ran between two parked cars. My head hit the ground and caused traumatic brain injury. My cerebral cortex got damaged, but because I was young my brain had time to recover."
"I’m not whole. Neither are you. We will be whole when we get up to heaven and meet our maker."
Dan has three jobs. He spins signs for the coffee shop, sells flowers on the street, and sells his hats and t-shirts. "I think I need another job, though. I like sign spinning."
I asked him who he spends most of his time with. "Myself."
"But I don't like to be alone."
He said he keeps his father's flag and ashes in his room. "No one was there to take them, so I keep them with me. He died. Of Agent Orange. My Mom and Dad divorced because he was drinking and angry."
I told him that he was one of the most gentle, approachable people I'd ever met, that the ease in his energy was so unique and loving that people were drawn to him.
He paused and said, "How would you have known that you would have met a cool guy like me in a coffee shop today?"
I remember when I was younger that my brother knew a man with the emotional complexion close to Dan's and he called him "simple." Yeah, maybe Dad is a little like that.
Simply loving. Simply happy. Simply good. Simply remaining unfettered by the difficulties in his life.
Simply an example.