You never know how life opens up possibilities unless you are open to your surroundings. Lunch at a buffet restaurant is an example of the opportunities and possibilities that are ever present. An elegant man sits down at the next table. We exchange greetings and commence to focus on our objective – food. He leaves for another helping and the watchful waitress removes his plates. On returning, he says with a sparkle in his eye, “you let her take away my food; I thought you were watching out for me”!

This was the start of a great conversation. I joined him at his table and he told me about his life. He was an ironworker for maintaining Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. My question – “how did you get this amazing job?” reveals a life story of inspiration and the joy of working on superstructures.  He shares his amazing experience working 744 feet above the Bay, to maintain 9,000 feet of this 1937 masterpiece.

Returning from the Korean conflict, his ship passes under the Golden Gate Bridge, and from that moment, he vows to return to work for that Bridge.  As I listen to this story of promise and determination it is clear the bridge was the impetus for his career. Upon returning home, this southern Ohio native, obtains a degree in engineering and ironworking. He then applies for an apprenticeship to work on the bridge. After the apprenticeship, his work led to a full time position maintaining the Bridge. He told me stories of his youth, playing in bands and experiencing the adventures of working high above the ground.

In random circumstance I got the opportunity to converse with one of the many unsung heroes in the field of American infrastructure maintenance.  Ironworkers replace corroding steel and rivets. In an environment of wind, sea air, and fog, he removes plates and bars to give painters access to the interiors of the chords and columns that make up the bridge. He told me that when you walk across narrow beams, you focus on where you are going, never looking at the ground. Keeping your eyes forward, carefully taking one-step at a time, you survive and succeed.

I came away from this encounter with inspiration that effort, focus, and vision can accomplish anything you want.  Life lesson from a random stranger.

You never know how the mysterious potential of the day will play out.  You never know!