By Pam Hillman
Tigger bounced into the front office, hand outstretched, an infectious grin on his face. “How are you today, Ms. Johnnie?”
The receptionist couldn’t help but respond to his energetic step, his jovial manner, and his wide grin. He even kind of looked like a Tigger. He was tall and lanky and middle-aged, and just bouncy. But the similarity ended there. He was a cardboard box salesman.
But he acted like a Tigger, and he brought a smile to the entire office as he peddled his wares. And over the years it became apparent that he wasn’t friendly and bouncy and interested in us just to sell boxes. No-siree!
He genuinely cared about people.
These two adorable babies aren't Tigger, but goodness, if anything reminds me of Tigger, they do!
One time my husband had a life-threatening injury that kept him in the hospital for ten days. Tigger dropped by the office while I was out. He was so concerned for my husband (whom he had never met), that he got the number to the hospital and called to check on us. You don’t forget Tiggers like that. I haven’t seen Tigger in several years, but I will never forget him, and I’ll always think of him as Tigger, and when I do, I will smile.
The Muffin Man was another one of our favorite salesmen. I dubbed him The Muffin Man because he brought us to-die-for muffins from The Beagle Bagel Café.
They were the size of dinner plates and so moist, they just melted in your mouth. One would hold you all day…if you could manage to stop at just one. If The Muffin Man visited in the morning, forget about lunch. I just skipped the healthy stuff altogether and ate a Beagle Bagel Café blueberry muffin with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee. Yum!
The Muffin Man shared pictures of his beautiful daughters, his latest hunting escapades, and his turkey calls and always asked about my boys. Eventually we got around the purpose of his visit, talking about stainless steel.
Good men, good salesmen who took the time to get to know their customers, who sometimes came bearing gifts, and always came bearing smiles, the gift that keeps on giving.
I’ve met more Tiggers, Muffin Men, and friendly Winnie the Pooh types over the years, but I’ve met a few Eeyore types as well. Don’t get me wrong, Eeyore is so cute and cuddly, and we want to fix him, and make him feel better about life.
But in real life, having an Eeyore around who never, ever has a good thing to say about anything would put a damper on things for sure. I don’t know about you, but I like to be encouraged. A bit of encouragement goes a long way. But on the flip side, discouragement and a toxic attitude does as well.
The very un-remarkable un-memorable salesman who replaced Tigger was the exact opposite of Tigger. He talked slow, he walked slow, and he acted like he was selling something as bland and unappetizing as a cardboard box. Well, he was selling boxes, but still, he was the closest thing to an Eeyore salesman that I’ve ever seen. I literally dreaded to see him coming. No personality, no excitement about anything. Just ho-hum, do ya wanna-buy-a-box boring.
Now, I’ll be honest. Having a hard-core Tigger bouncing around me all the time would drive me insane, but on the flip side, I’d go bonkers and have to be in a strait-jacket with Eeyore as a side-kick as well. In the words of Goldilocks, I relate more to someone with a “just right” personality. Maybe someone more like Pooh Bear.
If our attitude is so easily swayed in one direction or another by someone else, then it stands to reason that others react to our attitude the same way. One character can be swayed by another. Our readers can be swayed by our characters. A good story has a well-rounded cast of characters, some Tiggers, Eeyores, Pooh Bears, Piglets, and even a few Muffin Men. Are the Tiggers in your story that way simply because it’s his personality? Is there an underlying reason Eeyore seems depressed all the time?
Those characters need concrete reasons for being that way. So give ‘em reasons. And your readers will love your stories just as much as they love Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood.
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com