Big Life with Ray Waters Neal Campbell no

Jane and I were recently out for breakfast when we were asked if we’d mind sitting at a community table. The table sat eight people. We like meeting new people so we said sure. To my surprise Ernie Johnson, Jr. and his wife, Cheryl, also were seated at our table.

Perhaps some of you don’t know who Ernie Johnson, Jr. is, so let me fill you in. He is one of the best sports announcers in the nation. I have listened to him announce pro baseball, NBA basketball, and PGA golf. As a sports fan, trust me….EJ is a star. And, since I am a huge sports fan I was pretty pumped about being seated at a table on a Saturday morning with Ernie, his wife and four other strangers.

The conversation flowed easily between the Johnson’s and us. Cheryl is a licensed professional counselor. She was warm and engaging as was he. We talked about our careers and our families. Ernie and Cheryl told us about their two biological children Eric, and Maggie. They also told us about their four adopted children, a son Michael, from Romania, a daughter Carmen, adopted from Paraguay and daughters Ashley and Allison adopted domestically through foster care. They talked of the joys and the difficulties they had faced as parents. Through the entire meal they not only displayed rare transparency with their story, but they seemed genuinely interested in Jane and me. They listened intently to us describing our family, our dreams and our struggles. It was just a beautiful breakfast. One of the best I have ever known.

Shortly before the end of the meal, Cheryl excused herself, I thought probably to go to the restroom. She returned to our table and we talked a little more and then it was time to go. When I inquired about our bill, our server told me the table had been taken care of. It was then I realized Cheryl had paid the bill when she had stepped away. The Johnson’s had paid for the six strangers that had eaten at their table. We were shocked. We thanked them, grabbed a quick picture and went on our way.

Ernie and Cheryl Johnson are big deals. But more importantly, they are really good people. When they met us they did not put on airs of superiority. They entered into community with us that Saturday morning.  We started as strangers and left as friends. We genuinely felt a heart connection. Then, they picked up the tab for the whole table. They didn’t have to. It wasn’t for show. They wanted to. To me, they are great examples of people who get what it means to live the big life. They really do make everywhere they go a better place just because they have passed by.

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