I locked myself out. Just now. I was going to take a beach walk, and when I got to the outside gate that I needed to pass through to get to the beach, my key fob would not unlock it. Justin, a young angler about 12, was carrying his rod and tackle box back from the water with his brother. He noticed my plight and put down his gear to let me through the gate. I almost missed his kind gesture because I was distracted looking past his youthful profile to where the sun was sparkling on the water, past the gate.
Passed the moment.
I thanked him, and wandered through the open gate, wondering why my fob didn’t work, and thinking, if it didn’t work here then it might not work… Hey! I turned back to ask Justin if he could… but before I could speak, he said:
“If your fob doesn’t work here, it might not work on the door to the building.
He handed me his keys, took mine, and said, “wait right here!” Then he sprinted down the stairs, around the pool, under the canopy and to the door to test our key fob fail theory. He returned just as fast.
“Nope, it won’t work,” he said.
“Come on. I can let you back in right now with my fob, and then you can go get a different one so you won’t be locked out.”
I followed. I thanked him. His smile shined brighter than the sun on the water. It was easy.
Once inside, I met a neighbor whose name I always forget. He speaks broken English and can often be found carrying way too many things while being dragged forward by a controlling chihuahua. This time, he was carrying a tower of carry-out food with a big open can of Fosters on top, the leash in one hand, and trying to push the elevator button with the other while stabilizing the Foster’s with his chin. I pushed the button first, intercepting the towering fail. In just two floors of motion, he complimented me, thanked me, and apologized for his dog who was now licking my ankle. We said goodbye, shaking our heads at the silliness of life. It was easy.
Last night, I went on an annual trip to Office Depot with a friend who I discovered enjoys the distraction it affords. We indexed the elements of suffering and sorrow, while inefficiently crossing the store repeatedly without a list. As we did this, we outdid ourselves making up new uses for labels and envelopes intended to classify and modify and simplify the way we filed paper. In the process, we also worked through some really hard decisions we had been avoiding. We considered Wasabi tape. We raged. We bought big sets of colorful Sharpies. We choked back tears. We considered the relative usefulness of sparkling folders. We wept.
We moved on to more important purchases: milk and cereal and dog bones for a puppy who needed a carrot but was getting mighty close to a stick. At the checkout, we talked to a young man with ebony skin and bleached hair. It was not the usual irrelevant banter of strangers. I asked him the story behind his decision to dye his hair to such contrast. He told us why he did it, how he did it, and where he did it. He is an aspiring stylist. He wore the bleached locks well.
Similarly, at Starbucks, we talked to a young woman from Jamaica about her small, golden nose ring. For the first time, I noticed the placement of this ring really did enhance her beauty.
Ordinary stuff, right? Except that in the wake of the violence that has been rocking our nation, it seems everywhere I go, I am witnessing a form of resurrection. People are practicing interest in one another. When I thanked a Latino woman for helping me with my groceries yesterday, I realized I had turned away too quickly to really see her response. Immediately, I turned back to thank her again, more carefully, making eye contact. She smiled and murmured “you’re welcome” and I sensed an unspoken understanding had transpired. We both knew it was these tiny changes that have become hugely important.
If anything good can come from this turbulent time we are living through, perhaps it is this: we just might be changing, by choice, to notice one another more carefully. And in so doing, we are remembering how precious every single person is …To the world. To the workforce. To one another.
I hope my suspicion holds true and that we continue to witness a transformation that sweeps across our nation. Kindness and engagement with one another certainly isn’t new, but deciding these are no longer optional practices we can easily avoid by sparkling distractions just might be. Because the more we notice, well … the more we notice. The more we notice, the more we are inclined to ask the story behind what we see. The more we understand the story of why and where and how a person is and does and fears, the more the person telling us these things holds value and beauty and promise in our eyes.
All these tiny actions playing out endless loop just might move us to a culture in which we cheer one another on for tackling the ordinary work of life. We who have evolved to a point of being so busy that we barely notice one another, are now noticing that it has made us weary. We want to slow down. We want to know more.
And knowing this want, is good.