When asked one time about the meaning of life, author and college professor Joseph Campbell told his audience that life had no meaning; rather, we give meaning to our life by the way in which we choose to live it. And, in the movie "Evan Almightly," Morgan Freeman told us that we change the world one random act of kindness at a time. Two good thoughts, two good lessons.
In my youth, growing up in the '50s and '60s, my favorite show was a western, Cheyenne. The title character was played by actor Clint Walker. This was the first hour long western show on early television, and it put Warner Brothers on the map as a leading producer of television shows. It also put it's network, ABC, to the top of the charts.
The show lasted from 1955 to 1963, even though Walker took a year off from it in a contract dispute. Later hour long shows, whose stages had been set by The Cheyenne Show, included Bonanza, Wagon Train, and The Virginian. Gunsmoke was the longest running television show of any kind, too. But, Cheyenne was my favorite.
The stories always had a point to them, a lesson to pass on. Cheyenne was a man of character and integrity, a gentle giant (Walker stood 6'6", with a 48" chest and 32" waist) whose first response was always kindness. It was a western, and so there were gun fights and killings, but they were always last resorts for him.
I didn't understand those lessons then - - what boy of 9 does? But I have come to, I think. Cheyenne lived that "meaningful" life, and changed the world of the west one random act of kindness at a time on every week's show.
The premium channel Encore Westerns has been rebroadcasting The Cheynne Show daily since the beginning of the year, and I've once again gotten into the habit of watching. Curious about Clint Walker, the actor, I did what we all do now - - I "Googled" him and found him living in California, keeping himself active by offering autographed photos from the show through his web site, www.clintwalker.com.
I was telling one of my daughters the other day about the show, and the character, and about watching it daily now, more than 50 years after they first aired. I also told her I had sent Walker a letter telling him I had been a fan as a young boy, and how much I was enjoying watching his old shows today. She thought me a little crazy for doing that, a "fan" letter from a 60 year old man to an 82 year old former television star.
I've been thinking about it since then and trying to sort it out, and have come to the conclusion that I was simply doing what the character, Cheyenne, would have done. I'm just an ordinary guy, and was an ordinary kid in front of the screen watching television 54 years ago . . . watching Cheyenne.
Walker was that guy on the other side of the camera lens, working hard to turn out a good product for kids like me, strangers to him, but working hard nonetheless. An act of kindness as I see it, and I just figured I owed him a thanks for it, return the favor with another act of kindness.
So, I wrote that letter, and I hope it reaches him, and I hope he sees it as the circle come full around. As intended.