Man, did I ever need this story right now.
In the midst of all the news about mass shootings and racial tensions and just general anger in this country, along comes a simple, heartfelt tale of friendship, service and unconditional love.
It’s the story of a 100-year-old man and his ice cream.
On Thursday, Ogden native, bluesman and all-around inspiring dude Brad Wheeler posted a detailed story to Facebook, one that I think is important to share with a wider audience. Here’s the short version:
Last Sunday night, Wheeler was with legendary local centenarian saxophonist Joe McQueen at a gig in Salt Lake City where he says the sax player was looking “a little thin as well as frail and tired.” McQueen admitted he hadn’t been feeling well and was planning to see his doctor that week.
By Wednesday, McQueen had been to the doctor, who told him he’d lost 10 pounds since April. Upon hearing this, Wheeler told his friend that he needed to start eating high-calorie foods to put on a little weight — foods like pasta, hamburgers and ice cream.
“He told me he had been missing ice cream fiercely and that it’s too hard for him to stand at Farr’s Ice Cream lately because the line for ice cream is so long every time he drives by,” Wheeler writes. “He also said Farr’s is the only ice cream he likes.”
Specifically, spumoni ice cream.
After hanging up with the Ogden saxophonist, Wheeler — who now lives in Salt Lake City — called up an Ogden friend, Dan Matthews, and told him of McQueen’s plight.
Matthews headed straight for Farr Better Ice Cream in downtown Ogden and bought McQueen three quarts of spumoni, delivering it to his home.
But that’s not all. Matthews spoke to the manager at Farr’s, explaining McQueen’s love of their ice cream and his inability to get out of the house to get it.
Writes Wheeler, “The manager gave Dan his personal phone number and told him to give to Joe, and that if there was ever time Joe wanted ice cream and couldn’t get it, he would have an employee make a special trip to Joe’s house to make sure he got some.”
After Matthews dropped off the ice cream, Wheeler says McQueen called him and became emotional over several things:
• "About how amazing it was that people would want to help him."
• "How Dan wouldn’t take any money for the ice cream."
• "How he had enough Spumoni to last a couple weeks."
• "As well as how amazing that Farr’s would deliver ice cream for he and Thelma whenever they needed it.”
Talk between the two men then turned to the way the Lord had put them together as friends — “not just for each other but to show other people that an old African American jazzman can be friends with a younger Caucasian bluesman, and how much the world needed to stop and realize there’s more we have in common than there is we have in differences,” according to Wheeler.
It was at this point in Wheeler’s story the epiphany arrived for me. That for all the anger, bickering and name-calling flying around these days, such encounters are still the exception and not the rule. That people are basically good and look for ways to serve one another. And that there really is more that unites us than divides us.
Joe McQueen gets this. Brad Wheeler gets it. Dan Matthews gets it. And the manager at Farr Better Ice Cream gets it.
Because when you really stop to think about it, when all is said and done?
The things we say pale in comparison to the things we do.