A story from my day. Celebrating the extraordinary within the ordinary. May your lense be clear so that you may see the light all around you now, and always.
I met a woman yesterday. She was in front of Safeway ringing two bells, one in each hand. She was a Salvation Army volunteer. Red apron on, christmas hat askew and a broad smile on her warm weathered face. I noticed she was dancing a little, while ringing her bells, one in each hand. Creating a rhythm, a pattern and enjoying the moment. I tapped the beat with my foot as I walked to get my cart. She made me smile. I greeted her warmly and went inside to shop.
When I came outside after shopping, my son was hungry “RIGHT NOW MOMMY!!!!!” he demanded. So I sat with him and all our groceries at one of the outdoor tables and let him eat some food I had just purchased. At that moment, the bell ringing woman appeared. She was on a break and had a snack with her. She sat at the table behind us to rest and eat. As she walked by I again said “hello!” and smiled broadly. Her presence truly made me happy. My son looked at her, than at me, and as though knowing what I was thinking he said (very loudly) “I hate it when you talk to strangers Mom. It really bothers me. You don’t know her. Why are you saying ‘hi’ like you know her? You’re embarrassing me.” and on and on he went as only an 8 yo can. I listened and gently tried to tell him that she didn’t seem like a stranger to me because I saw her so often in front of the Safeway. I went on to talk about community and the people we live side by side with who are not really “strangers” at all. In fact, none of us are really “strangers”. This just caused him to get more upset and so I was about to just drop it and have the conversation later , when the woman came over to us.
“Hi” she said to us both cheerily. “Do you mind if I talk to your child?” she asked me. “No, not at all” I offered and asked my boy if he would listen to what she had to say. He didn’t respond to my request, but the woman jumped in amiably.
“Can I talk to you for a moment please?” she asked kindly . He rolled his eyes and deliberately looked the other way.
“Well, ” she coaxed, “I would like to see your eyes when we talk please. Do you mind looking at me?”
To my surprise, he turned to face her and offered her his intense full gaze. She met it with absolute gentleness and equal intensity.
“Well,” she began “I just wanted to tell you a little bit about myself so we don’t have to be strangers.”
She went on to talk about her life a bit, how she was old (grandmother age she told him!), how she worked for 25 years and then retired. She explained to him how much she loves people, ALL people, and how she has the strong desire to help others. She said that after she retired she couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing so she started volunteering wherever she could. She now volunteers with Salvation Army working 10 hour days in front of Safeway ringing her bells and hoping kind people will give whatever they can to the charity. She talked about families and children who have very little, no toys, no home, no food, and how every little bit helps and how each time we reach out to help another, we make the world a better place. She told him how lucky he was to have parents, a home, food, warm clothes, toys and to always be grateful. She did all this without ever sounding preachy or getting angry or raising her voice or making him/us feel bad about our privilege. His gaze met hers the whole time and she never once looked away from him.
At the end she simply said to my boy, “Thank you so much for listening to me”
And then I turned to her and asked her name. “Octavia” she said. I expressed my gratitude for taking the time to talk to my son. She smiled a kind “You’re welcome” and gently went back to her meal.
A moments exchange that revealed humanity at its very best. The kind words of a wise elder meeting the willing ears of a young boy. In this exchange, I saw the most authentic expression of hope.
We can change the world. One person at a time. We just need to listen. And speak with authenticity.