September 22

On her 23rd birthday, I wanted to pen a small open letter of appreciation. This is for you, Samantha.

My first encounter

“You have beautiful eyes :)”

That’s the first message I sent her. It was, and still is, the most sincere compliment I have ever paid anyone.

I remember she had four or five pictures on her Tinder profile, and I think maybe one of them didn’t feature a close view of those icy-blue diamonds.

She replied.

“Score, step one completed!” I thought.

From there, Samantha and I talked every day. She was this ultra-positive bundle of smiley faces and exclamation points, which served as a wonderfully refreshing change of pace.

It became quickly apparent she was much, much more than a set of pretty eyes.

After about three weeks, I posed the idea of meeting in person. There was a concert going on at the Indiana Theater on April 30, and she suggested we could go together.

“Awesome, music kicks ass.” I said sure.

She later requested that her best friend tag along with us, which I later found out was a ruse designed to test my worthiness. A shrewd power play.

We met at the theater, and the concert served as a nice ice-breaker. Afterward the date really started.

We went to Steel City Samiches, an Indiana, Pa., staple. What says romance more than open-face sandwiches overflowing with french fries, meat and cheese?

Well, it wasn’t long before we both reverted to our natural dating personas:  Silence and awkward smiles. We sustained brief pockets of conversation, sure, but it was largely giggling and apologies.

“Dude, you’re blowing this so hard,” I thought to myself multiple times. “Here’s this intelligent, gorgeous girl sitting across from you, and all you can manage is ‘I’m sorry, I’m bad at this.'”

Also, I made continued, quick glances at one of the suspended televisions, which were showing the NFL Draft. Thinking back on it, she probably should have walked out and left me with the bill.

But she didn’t mind. In fact, she seemed happy the entire time, which she later confirmed to me was true. I was happy, too, and it was a good time. It’s hard to explain the how of it, but that night sparked an interest for both of us.

I gave her a kiss on the cheek good night, feeling oddly confident in my future going forward with incredibly unique woman.

Take it with a smile

It’s been almost two-and-a-half years since that first date.

I never imagined I’d discover the most wonderful woman on the planet through Tinder, of all places, but here we are.

This sappy soliloquy has gone on for more than 500 words already, and truth to God I could fill it with 1,000 more singing praises about the woman I was lucky enough to fall in love with.

If you have gained the pleasure of meeting Samantha, your life is more enriched than you’ll ever know.

I’ve never met a more compassionate, kind individual. She’ll act aloof, pretend she’s nothing special. She’s too humble for that kind of gauche behavior.

I am beyond lucky to have her respect and her trust. Before her, I hated myself most of the time, and I never thought I deserved the kind of love that she holds for me.

I still think that from time to time, but her empathy and her warmth have dulled those roars of self-loathing to largely unobtrusive whispers. Her companionship has helped me to better myself, and it’s rare that lone individuals are capable of exerting such power.

A larger message

Now on that note, you can call this whole essay melodramatic or tacky or whatever, but here’s a simple observation:  The world today is toxic, filled with negativity and cynicism.

We need stories of good, stories filled with endearment and joy. It inspires hope.

Instead of shining light on corrupt politicians and backwards hate groups, we need to appreciate and celebrate people like Samantha.

People who never commit an act with malicious intent. People who will extend a hand to those in need with no ulterior motive. People who wear a wide smile and their heart on their sleeve.

Samantha is all that and more.

She works as a T.S.S., which tasks her with helping young children deal with their issues,whether it be a learning disorder or something more serious like schizophrenia, whilst in school.

It’s a largely thankless job, and it necessitates extensive patience, understanding and geniality.  Yet she handles it like she does anything else: with steadfast optimism.

Wrapping up

Ultimately, I could preach until I’m blue in the face about this topic.

If it’s not clear by now, I just want people to appreciate what a wonderful, genuine human being Samantha is.

She doesn’t need everyone’s approval, nor does she expect it. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve it.

She gets sad, just like anyone else. There are times when she’s frustrated with her life; with me, her job, her family, and she has every right to feel that way sometimes.

And when that happens — no matter how prideful you are — it’s okay to admit that people extending their appreciation feels nice.

That’s why I’ve come to like birthdays. When that one day of the year comes around, the people who truly treasure you will make sure they say, “Happy birthday,” because they appreciate that you were born.

I hope most people will join me in saying, “Happy birthday, Samantha.”

And thank you for being the wonderful person that you are.





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