Life-Changing Experience

By: Dick Wolfsie

I got an email the other day that was pretty special and I’d like to share it with you.

Dear Dick,

Thank you so very much for your sensitivity, generosity and kindness. You will never know what a difference you made in my life.

Your friend forever, Jerry

I just had one question. Who the heck is Jerry?

Mary Ellen thought I was making this up.

“How can you not know who Jerry is? You changed his life.”

“I know, I know, but the name doesn’t ring a bell.”

“Fine, but doesn’t the changing his life part ring a bell?”

This was very frustrating for me because I’m not really that wonderful a guy and I usually don’t do a great deal of life changing. In fact, I’d say I change someone’s life only about once in a lifetime, at the very most, so you’d think I’d remember a guy named Jerry. Nope. Not a clue.

I went back through my appointment book to see if I had made any appointments that had life-altering possibilities. It was actually kind of depressing because I saw no potential in the last six months for any such accomplishment. In fact, I didn’t have much evidence in my appointment calendar for any displays of sensitivity or generosity. Truth is, if I had gotten a letter from someone saying:

Dear Dick:

You insensitive, ungenerous lout. You are not a very nice person. Thanks for messing up my life.

…well, a letter like that I could understand. That could have been from anybody.

 So, who the heck is Jerry?

Wait, I had an idea. I went to my computer and typed in “Jerry.” Now we were getting somewhere. There were two million Websites with the name Jerry—the first 200 had something to do with gourmet ice cream, the next 300 were fan clubs for Leave It to Beaver and 250 more were for Jerry Springer.

I don’t like Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. When I eat it, my head freezes up and I get a terrible headache, but I don’t think that’s the kind of sensitivity Jerry meant.

I started to wonder if I had ever affected Jerry Mathers’ life. I interviewed him once on my TV show and told him how much I loved the show where he got caught in the gigantic coffee cup on the billboard. I also told him that Eddie Haskell was a jerk and a slime, so I don’t think I earned the sensitivity label. Nah. Not Jerry Mathers.

And Jerry Springer? Wow, I’ve met him also. But I don’t think he even knows the words “kind” and “sensitive.” Oh, and Jerry recently passed. So it wasn’t him.

I tried to narrow the search on the computer: Jerry/Dick/Generous/Sensitive. Nothing. Not one example came up. Well, there was my answer. Jerry may have thought I changed his life, but I didn’t. That’s why I couldn’t remember. It was some random act of kindness that I bestowed on someone—someone whose name I never got.

I started feeling better about myself. I had helped someone and asked for nothing in return. Not even the person’s name. I am a kind and generous guy. I have changed a life and I had no motive other than the knowledge that I made a difference. I was content.

But who the heck is Jerry?

– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@