We may as well have had the words “tourist” tattooed on our foreheads, my wife and I, during our first visit to New York City, 40 years ago this September.
There was an extra jolt of excitement as we strolled Times Square where throngs of people were talking of nothing but Apollo 11’s successful moon landing and of mankind’s first footprints on the lunar surface.
Too, we thought it neat to attend Sunday services at Marble Collegiate Church, where a respected theologian, author and motivational speaker was pastor. This was during the 37th of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s 52-year pastorate. We were naïve in assuming that this preacher — a man who could put a positive spin on a spider web — would be in his pulpit on a given Sunday at this stage of his ministry. Our faces reddened upon noting the bold letters on the church’s marquee: “DR. PEALE’S NEXT SERMON WILL BE ON NOVEMBER 16.” We attended anyway…
In the four decades since, I’ve kept a keen eye out for lives marked by optimism and determination to lend helping hands.
One who practices what the late Dr. Peale preached doesn’t hold 22 honorary doctoral degrees, hasn’t written 38 books and hasn’t stood at lecterns in huge auditoriums crowded with both people and TV cameras.
He did attend college for one year in his beautiful homeland of Barbados. But at age 19, he was off to New Jersey where he and his wife have parented three children. Two daughters are studying pre-law and education, and their 17-year-old son will be in college next year.
The husband/father/ humanitarian I’ve identified is Adrian Greenidge; he’s a hotel doorman. I’ve watched him on numerous occasions, from different angles and distances, at his Broadway Millennium workplace. He’s got this “servanthood thing” down, worthy of a doctorate if they gave degrees for such. Adrian practices Dr. Peale’s teachings, a day at a time, a person at a time, a smile at a time. Folks get the same warm treatment, whether passersby or hotel guests…
ABC News personalities took note of his ever-present smiles, songs and jokes three years ago. (Cabbies see a sterner side if his summoning whistles go unobliged.)
The network provided Adrian with his hour of fame during Good Morning, America’s 30th anniversary show. That day, then-host Charles Gibson switched jobs with him.
Adrian was spiffed out in a suit and tie in that pre-dawn hour when the network limo whisked him from his New Jersey home to his ABC news assignment. (Gibson admitted that doorman work is hard, and that he did a poor job whistling-down taxis.) Adrian, now featured on the hotel’s TV ads, enjoyed the star treatment, as well as the interview he conducted.…
That’s how I first learned about the storied doorman. ABC personnel, and legions of others, believe that his work is a near-perfect fit for his “druthers.” Quite simply, his intent is to positively impact the lives of others on a daily basis.
During a couple of brief interviews, I’ve sensed his enthusiasm for the National Association of Hotel Doormen, whose convention he attends annually. The association’s main project is to raise funds for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
His accolades for numerous humanitarian causes are many. When I talked to him a few days ago, he was melancholy…
He was saddened by the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, whom he described as “the nicest political figure I ever met.”
And he was pensive about the near-at-hand eighth anniversary of 9/11.
At work during that carnage eight years ago, he was at once a counselor, comforter and sustainer. The hotel was a place of vigil, heavy with sounds of sadness, and layers of dust dulling the shiny luggage carts…
“My usual singing and whistling to amuse children were useless that day,” he said. “The hotel became a crisis center for many, including relatives of a single firm that lost 400 employees.” He lamented the memory of a mother who fell to her knees in front of him upon learning that her son had been killed at the World Trade Center, while her husband, working on another floor, was spared…He spoke of five sisters who learned that their only brother perished at the WTC in the first hour of his first day on a new job… “It was that way for too many long days, and soon even the thought of going to work was painful,” he added.
He believes that the city, however slowly, is recovering from that time when it seemed to be a ghost town, the scene of the worst carnage ever wrought on American soil.
Adrian prays to be spared from such sorrow ever again. He perseveres, now in his 18th year at the same front door, practicing what Dr. Peale preached. He’s a lot like Will Rogers, too, in his penchant for liking folks. Terrorists, however, should never expect to see his smile, and tardy cab drivers only half of one…
Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to email@example.com His Web site is www.speakerdoc.com.