Name a show you like. How about a band? A sports team? A favorite book? Any of these seemingly innocuous things have the astounding ability to bond you to another, to set the stage for a conversation, a connection, perhaps even a friendship. My friend Curt and I both love comic books. David and I share a deeply spiritual love of Chinese buffet. Hilary and I share a love of the most colorful of language, and my girlfriend, Mary Ann, and I love adventures and stories.
Andy Fry and I have many of these connective threads. Many of these tiny, seemingly superficial bonds that can draw to people from such different places together, and make them friends.
I met with Andy Fry as the hours of a September afternoon in the South drag lazily into the early hours of the evening. We’re both heading to the same book signing in a couple of hours, so we kick our feet up at the co-working space he owns, sun shining through the windows as people stroll down King St. below.
I’d meant to meet with Andy as part of the first 100 Connections, but the project got away from me quickly and, before we could arrange it, I had reached 100. Telling a second round of this story made it apparent to me how important it was to meet with Andy this time. He is a face I have seen at networking events, someone I have shared a meal with, and someone who has even helped me in my pursuits as a storyteller. (I have taught two different classes on storytelling at his co-working space.)
But with all of this time around each other, the man with the increasingly friendly smile and I have never really sat down one on one to talk. He is a prime example of something I’ve always sought to show with this project, that the most miraculous people are often right beside you, in the corner of your vision. The fact that you let them walk by you so often is one of the greatest tragedies of a life misspent.
Andy Fry and I like many of the same things. We both have a love for the Royals, the action movie hybrids common to the 80’s and 90’s, and, maybe above all of those things, Star Trek. We talk about storytelling, about the adventures of those intrepid crews on their multi-year missions, going where no man had gone before. Time passes as we reminisce about favorite captains, episodes, and how the world has been so shaped by this singular piece of pop culture.
In a society where we place such a premium on being liked over being authentic, Andy is authentically friendly. It’s not an act, not a pretense put on for the benefit of those watching. He likes people, likes talking with them, whiling away the hours, helping them with whatever tasks stumble into their day. Andy is the type of guy who knows your name, keeps up with what you’re doing, and genuinely cares about your success.
The capacity of his heart is wondrous, and the courage to have such a heart is admirable.
I’ve survived the bulk of my 39 years, and the assorted instances within them, by keeping the hood on my sweatshirt up and my heart guarded. Andy makes his way in the world with his heart open and his smile visible. I find something truly marvelous in this man, in his way of being, but it is just that, his way.
“Take a risk to get out of your comfort zone.”
When I ask Andy to give me his singular bit of wisdom from life, this is it. He’s an entrepreneur, but that’s not where this wisdom really comes from. To find the essence of Andy and his wisdom, you need to look at his smile, at the gleam in his eye, at the way he runs across the street to help someone he knows lock up their bike. Andy is a friend to so many not because he needs to be liked, but because he believes in taking risks, in getting out of his comfort zone, and outside of it he has found that million dollar smile.
Our time ends and I make my way down King St. to the book signing a little ahead of him. As I walk I see people stop and smile, laugh and joke, enjoying the beginning of the setting sun and the start of the evening. In each smile I find myself reminiscing on a bit of Andy Fry, a comment from our conversation, or a moment where he stops to play with a dog. It takes me a moment to realize how contagious his smile is and that I have caught it.
Later that night I hold my newly purchased book, one Andy has bought as well, and smile just a bit as I think of the little things that bond. Those little risks that come from us seeing something the same in another, no matter how small, and starting a conversation.
I think of great risk, of great reward, and of my friend Andy Fry.