Lessons From Larry
By: Krista Keil
This story was published with the permission of Larry Tutt.
Just across the street from my workplace there is a gentleman who sits on the sidewalk on a folding chair- everyday- without fail. Larry sits at one of the busier intersections in downtown Washington D.C., just a few blocks from the White house. You can imagine the high volume of traffic, and the many people there are to interact with. As Larry sits, he blows a whistle every few minutes, smiles and greets passersby, and happily engages in conversation, when elicited. Many pass by, ignoring him, and likely make their own assumptions about the guy who is “always blowing that darn whistle.” When I first started walking that route, I thought: “I do not understand why he blows that whistle.” Yet, contrary to what some may think- Larry never asks for money and he isn’t homeless, and he is rather enjoyable to speak with. As this is different from frequent encounters with other individuals met on the streets in a highly metropolitan area, it grabbed my attention. As I frequently pass Larry on my walking route, I’ve come to know him over the last year, and I’d like to share a little of his story with you.
I began greeting Larry almost daily, on my walk to daily mass during my lunch break- and what I discovered about him was his tangible joy. Because of this quality and his social nature, I have come to know pieces of his story. Larry shared with me that he was featured in a Washington Post article a few years back, and he told me to look it up. So I did. What I found was a well written piece about, “The Good Morning Man,” a story about a native Washingtonian Vietnam veteran with schizophrenia who never married, never had children, and lives in an apartment in Northeast DC. He comes to the intersection of 15th and K streets everyday beginning at 5 am, just to greet people and share a smile, quite literally. In the article Larry is quoted as saying, “God told me to make others happy.” Larry has been greeting people on their daily commutes everyday since 2009, with his only goal being to contribute to the happiness of others.
Larry has many nicknames affectionately given to him by locals: “The Good Morning Man,” “The Mayor of K Street,” and “The Whistle Guy,” just to name a few. The locals in the area have come to know and appreciate him for his warmth, kindness, and consistency. Larry knows the names of the individuals that pass by regularly, he notices when they aren’t present, and he will ask them the next time he sees them. This simple act communicates that, “you matter.” Larry’s commitment to this endeavor is embedded with virtue. What would the world be like if we were all a little more like Larry?
As the holidays are upon us, we enter a season of hope and expectant anticipation for what is to come. Larry exemplifies what it means to live with an attitude of hope and joyful anticipation. No matter how many people pass him by, or give him quizzical looks, he continues on, seemingly unthwarted by any negativity. There are many lessons we can learn from Larry’s example: that of perseverance, consistency, joy, hope, charity, and the pursuit of living a life with purpose. Larry’s gestures may seem like seemingly small acts, and although I still don’t know why he chooses to blow a whistle, I can tell you about the joy he adds to my daily life, and I sincerely hope he holds his post for many years to come. You see, Larry’s presence exudes a pure form of charity: seeking the good of another, without asking anything in return. This holiday season, perhaps we can all strive to be more charitable with our words and actions: to be a little bit more like Larry. Thank you Larry, for being a witness and teacher to all of us- constantly demonstrating that the small things matter, and that every person you pass by is an opportunity for human connection.