A few years ago, I saw this license plate in the parking lot at my local grocery store.
I snapped a picture, because I was having one of “those days.” You know, the ones where you ask yourself, “why am I even trying to do this? I should probably quit. This is never going to work out.” I was desperate enough that day to be taking life advice from a license plate. Never Give Up!
I laughed at myself while I took the picture. But, it helped. I kept going.
Then, just a few months ago, I was jockeying around my town’s oddly tiny post office parking lot, trying to exit, and in pulled NVRGUP! I rolled down my window and waved to the driver as she got out. “Hi, Never Give Up!” I yelled to her. “I love your license plate!”
I was tucked into the back of the lot, the last in a line of cars trying to leave, so after she parked she walked over to my window to say hello. She was elegant, dressed for errands in the manner I would dress for an evening event. I shared with her that I’d seen the message years ago and it had perked up an otherwise bad day. I expected her to say something like, “Hey, that’s great, glad to hear it!”
But instead, she thanked me just for noticing the words. This had been her late husband’s license plate choice. “That was him, all the way,” she said to me. “He never gave up on other people. He always thought everyone had good in them, and it was his job to find it and help bring it out.” I said I hadn’t considered that the message being sent was ‘don’t give up on other people.’ “Oh yeah,” she said. “It used to really frustrate me sometimes, to tell you the truth. He always gave people more chances than I would have.” (Then she assured me that he would be okay with me taking it as a sign to not give up on myself, either!)
Every time it came to renew the plate, she wondered if she should keep it, or just go back to the randomly assigned number. I told her my vote would be to never give it up, and she smirked, but the smile faded quickly. “I hope I didn’t make your day sad by telling you my husband died,” she said to me.
I said, “I’m really sorry he’s gone, because it sounds like he was an awesome person. But don’t you think it’s kind of cool that, in a way, he’s still encouraging people?” At this point I was hoping I hadn’t made her sad. But she quickly put me at ease. “I’m so glad you waved to me, because I do love talking about him. I miss him.”
Then she and I spent some time wondering about whether he knew she was having this conversation, whether he in fact orchestrated it. We both chuckled at how little we knew for sure, but also agreed that however it happened, we were glad we’d connected. We hugged through my window, and off she went into the swirling abyss of the mid-day post office.
And off I went to ponder the idea of never giving up on other people, and what that might look like, and where I could improve. Then I went home, scowled at my keyboard, and said to myself for the third time that day: “Never. Give. Up.”