BOOK EXCERPT: 'Been There, Done That' by Deborah Roberts and Al Roker

PHOTO: Book cover of "Been There, Done That," by ABCs Al Roker and Deborah Roberts.PlayNAL
WATCH Deborah Roberts, Al Roker Talk About Family in Joint Memoir

Deborah Roberts is an intrepid member of the ABC News family, known for her meticulous and detailed reporting, but hardly a day goes by when she isn't asked about her husband, NBC News weatherman Al Roker.

At first glance they may seem like an unlikely pair.

"We don't like the same foods. We don't like a lot of the same music. We don't like a lot of the same theater or events. But we love each other very much. And we have a deep and abiding respect and feeling for family and I think that's what grounds us," Roberts said.

"Yes," her husband said in agreement.

Roberts and Roker –- who have two teenage children, Nicky and Leila -– say their abiding love has allowed them to handle life's ups and downs, and in their joint memoir, "Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom for Modern Times," they share both the funny and difficult lessons of their 20-year marriage.

"Been There, Done That" is available January 5, 2016. Read an excerpt from the book below:


Several years ago, I was on assignment interviewing a man and his wife who were facing a tragic situation. After the interview, I went into their bathroom to wash my hands and noticed a sign they had hanging up on the wall that was headlined “Rules of Life.”

There were a number of great phrases written on the plaque about finding peace and being positive, but the one that stuck with me that day was, “Always give people more than they expect.” That resonated with me because it reminded me so much of my mother. She is the first person who taught me to think above and beyond when you are doing something with or for someone else.

Just recently I was in a cab making small talk with the driver, who told me that his wife was ill and that he was having a tough day. I was busy on my e-mails and hadn’t intended to be distracted but soon realized that this guy just needed a small lift— someone who respected the “time of his day.” So I gave him my attention, and when we arrived at my destination, I wished him well and offered a bigger tip than I typically would give.

Giving people more than they expect can become an everyday habit, one that fills your emotional bucket by giving to others in ways they never see coming. It can be something as simple as dropping someone off in front of their house instead of at the corner because it’s cold outside or complimenting their smile just to leave them feeling a little happier.

Last winter was an especially harsh one for many parts of the country. We had more snow and bitterly cold days than I can ever remember in all of the years I’ve lived in New York City. On a particularly miserable day in December, in the thick of the Christmas season, I was rushing home after work and was lucky to find a cab right away. It was one of those blessed New York moments when a cab stops on the corner where you’re standing. I made a dash for it at the same time another woman had spotted it. I didn’t see her, nor do I believe she saw me. I jumped in on one side as she made her move on the other. She had a dispirited look on her face when she realized I wasn’t about to let the coveted cab go.

Now, ordinarily, the New Yorker in me would have said, “Sorry, lady!” But something inside told me to ask where she was headed. She looked exasperated, as if she had been standing in the cold, wet snow for quite some time. I told her I was headed to Eighty-second and Second Avenue. She said she was going to Seventy-fifth and First.

“Maybe you two can share!” the cabdriver suggested.

“Sure,” I said. “I don’t mind at all! Hop on in.”

The woman jumped in and noticed I had Pepper, our family dog, with me. She rolled her eyes, resentful of her presence and of mine, clearly asking herself why she was getting into this cab with either of us. She just looked disdainful of everything.

I could have taken an attitude back with her.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I used our short ride together to try to turn her day around.

“How are you doing today?” I asked.

“Don’t even ask!” she said.

“Where are we headed to first, ladies?” the driver chimed in.

“I’d be happy to drop you at Seventy-fifth and Third— it’s right on the way,” I politely offered.

“Ugh. I can’t walk that far. I’ve been on my feet all day. I am exhausted.”

Before she could go any further, I realized this woman needed a break much more than I did. “You know what? You can drop me at Seventy-fourth and Second and I’ll walk the rest of the way so you can take this lovely woman right to her front door.”

She didn’t know what to say.

But I knew that in that moment she needed more than she was expecting.

With that simple gesture, she began to crack that tough facade and warmed up to me. She told me she was seventy-eight years old and was still working in the jewelry district five days a week. Her office was near Rockefeller Center, near the Christmas tree, so the traffic and the hordes of people every day had become overwhelming.

I told her I understood how hard this time of year can be and reminded her that this too shall pass. The holidays are tough for a lot of people, but they come and go and things will get better. By the time we got to my stop, she had forgotten all about her terrible day. She started to dig in her purse to pay for the cab, but before she could find her wallet, I handed her more than enough to cover the ride.

“Here, take this.”

“I don’t have any change,” she said.

“Go home and have a hot cup of tea, put your feet up and relax,” I said, offering her a smile and a wink before I got out of the cab. “God bless you!” she called out.

I turned to her before closing the door and said, “Next time you’ll give me the ride, okay?” And with that I offered her a quick wave and then Pepper and I were on our way. I had a little extra pep in my step as I walked home that afternoon. I felt good being able to do something kind for a stranger, and I felt more gratitude about life.

Gratitude makes people happier and it allows us to accomplish more through the art of doing small things every day. Today I sometimes find myself wondering if I am living the life my mother would have wanted for me and whether or not I’ve lost a little of my Southern warmth after years of living in New York City. I’d like to think I have not, but to be safe I sometimes go out of my way to make sure I hold on to my upbringing in a city known for its hustle and bustle and hardened attitude toward passersby. I’m so often racing around, traveling and meeting deadlines, especially with the high demands of my job, that I feel like I don’t have the time to talk to this person or that friend, when in fact I’m simply not making the time! Sometimes you just need to slow down, take a beat and remember to think about everyone you encounter—because my mom was absolutely right. The time of day belongs to everyone.

If I practice this daily, I can be the best example for my kids. It’s my deepest hope that they will remember my kind words or small gestures—that they will leave the same kind of imprint on them that my mother’s did on me. My roots are truly a part of me, and I thank my mom for planting them so deeply. And as her daughter, my responsibility—my obligation— is to pass those timeless seeds of wisdom on to my own children with the hope that they too feel the strength and security that I did to bloom where they are planted.

So when I’m out with my children I’m especially mindful of small moments of kindness. When I see a mom struggling with her stroller as she navigates the entrance to the grocery store, I am quick to grab the door. When we’re out walking Pepper and someone passes by, it’s a natural thing for me to say good morning! It doesn’t matter whether the person returns the greeting or not. One day Leila said to me, “It makes you look small-town or naive when you strike up conversations with strangers on the street.” Maybe it does, but I’m hoping she also sees the joy of connecting with your neighbors, even in the big city and our crazy busy world. I want Leila and Nicky to learn that we can all spread a little happiness in just a few words or with a momentary kind gesture. Like my mom always said, the time of days belongs to everyone.

Excerpt courtesy from "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Family Wisdom for Modern Times" by Al Roker and Deborah Roberts, published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Random House.