The Irish Singer


As I walk through the hallways of the dilapidated JFK airport in New York City I spot this guy. Actually, it wasn’t the kid who caught my eye it was the book he was reading. “The Rise” is not a book I know anything about but the title and explainer underneath intrigue me so much I remember it.

I’m on the plane, buckled into my seat, when the young man with the book shows up and sits in the seat one away from me on the isle.


I see the book and strike up a conversation. The title reads
“The Rise: Creativity, the gift of failure and the search for mastery.” For those of you know really know me you understand a title like that is better than candy to a guy who likes to dig deep for answers or at least good questions.

Anyway, we start talking about life and Ireland, my boy’s recent trip to his homeland and stuff like that. In the beginning of our conversation I ask this 21 year old if he is an old soul which he sort of laughs off.


You meet people in life who you simply connect with. You don’t know why and age plays no role in this connection. It’s as if your souls were meant to meet or God has a reason to put you in seat 29a and Tom in 29c. The person in 29b fails to show up so we have lots of room to talk and we do. The longer we sit, the more we talk, the more honest the conversation. We talk of difficulty and tough decisions. We talk about the world, religion and everything in between.

You know how obnoxious I can get when asking questions. My son Jake calls it interviewing people. Whatever it is that I do it’s part of who I am and often leads to great conversation.


Tom tells me about his friends, his parents, his hippy sister and his love of music. I pull out my headphone adapter; we hook it up to his phone as he introduces me to musicians I’ve never heard before and some I knew before he was ever born. People like Dean Martin, Eva Cassidy and the list goes on and on. After each song we dissect the lyrics and meaning of the artist. I’m sure people sitting in row 28 and 30 thought we were traveling together we seemed to know each other so well.

We are both the kind of guys who like to listen to the words and the music and understand that the marriage between the two is what makes a song memorable. A simple lyric with deep meaning is the key to a great song.

Then Tom does something that surprises me. He asks if I’d like to hear his song. He taps his phone and there he is playing the piano and singing “Me and Mrs. Jones” and he’s good. The guy can actually sing well.

We talked a lot about finding yourself. The journey of young adulthood when you are just out of college and considered an adult but not treated as one.

We talked for six straight hours with only a few bathroom breaks. By the time we land I think Tom might not be laughing about my “Old Soul” comment anymore.


Before leaving for this vacation and the work related trip to New York Kathy and I talked about this being an adventure.

I went into this trip with the understanding that things wouldn’t go perfectly but that the people and places I visited would change my life and change me just a little.

The nine-hour layover in Chicago was painful but looking back I filled it with conversations and relationships with people.


The Holistic businessman from New York, the interior designer from the city, the two African American women talking with me about what it feels like to be stared at and the kind man with the sad eyes who opened up on the flight to Chicago about his marriage problems and struggles in life and now Tom the singing Irishman.


Is life a series of mishaps and mistakes or chance meetings? I don’t think so. I think these were intersections planned by God. I believe they are moments, connections ordained by God Himself. What purpose do they have? I don’t know nor do I need to all I have to do is show up, listen, relate, talk, listen some more, be vulnerable and not try to help anyone.

This trip was filled with wonderful moments and the trip to Branson and to New York with some difficult times but my wife spoke the truth early on and I listened. “This is an adventure Rick and we need to treat it that way.”