People Touching Each Other


My fridge – or the contents thereof – frequently resembles that of Stephanie Plum, author Janet Ivanovich’s bounty hunter heroine.  Old moldy cheese (actually, I usually eat the cheese before it goes moldy), a few wilted lettuce leaves and miscellaneous plates with leftover brown rice.  I haven’t gone shopping for quite a few days because walking there is okay (downhill) but coming back shopping be-laden is a drag, especially when the wind is gale force.

Last night I forced myself to eat another wretched bowl of brown rice, but went to bed starving.  Woke up even more starving, but reassured by flat-looking belly that there is good in everything.  Leapt into the kitchen to make breakfast.

Oh.  Drat.  No coffee.  No bread.  No marmalade.   Old brown rice I will not eat for breakfast.  So rather hungrily I set out for the shop, via the beach.   There was no wind, the world was quiet, the sky overcast, the ocean dull grey metal.    A single white sailing boat crossed the bay.

I passed a man probably in his late 60’s, looking a bit distressed.  I saw him hesitate a moment, then he asked if I had by chance seen his car keys.  He’d dropped them in the sand somewhere.  He had no hands, only mechanized claws.  I said no, but that I would look, and slowed down to walk with him, although my instinctive reaction was fear.  He could have been a serial killer for all I knew.  He hesitated, and stopped.  I walked on a ways, then thought perhaps he thinks I don’t want to walk with him because of his hands.

I wondered what that was like, having to go through a huge trauma (of losing them in the first place), then have the added trauma of people being afraid of you, wanting to avoid you.  I know the basic principle of it pretty well, actually, though I haven’t lost any body parts and I think his challenge is far harder than mine.

He wasn’t in any way a victim, he was self-contained, but my heart went out to him, and I thought, I can respect his dignity, deal with my fear.  So I stopped, and waited for him.  Chatted normally.  I said I was coming back the same way after shopping; that I’d look again for his keys, and asked how I could get hold of him if I found them.  He said he lived in a retirement home and didn’t know the number, but if I found the keys I could leave them at the beach restaurant.

He was grateful in a simple uncomplicated way.  Seemed quietly surprised that I would go to any trouble for him.  I was moved, and glad I’d opened up my heart.

We parted company and I went shopping, wondering how he lost his hands, and if it would have been okay for me to ask.  I wanted to find his keys for him.  Felt like a kid about it.  I wished I’d invited him to have coffee with me or something so I could hear his story.

In the shop the vegetable section didn’t look a whole lot better than my fridge!   A tall, smiling beautiful woman working in the section said the delivery truck had just come in, but hadn’t been offloaded yet.  She said if I wait for about 5 minutes I could have my celery.

Now usually when somebody says it’ll be 5 minutes it means anything up to an hour.  So I asked her.  She laughed in a semi self-deprecating “the world is hopeless today!” kind of way and told me to wait.  5 minutes, she said, not an hour!  I gathered that I wasn’t the first to ask her the same question.   I thought was an amazing nature she had, not to get impatient and annoyed.

Another woman pounced on her angrily.  She got the same kind, half-amusedly frustrated “please try to be patient” response that was somehow incredibly empathetic.  The woman just couldn’t let it in.  I watched her behave in ways that I often do myself – angry, blaming, impatient.

I thought, there we were, two sides of the same coin in a way.  I could see how opening my heart to the tall beautiful smiling woman allowed the waiting experience to be a good one.  And how closing her heart made the angry woman’s experience a lousy one.

Funny thing is, I got my celery, and the angry woman didn’t get what she’d been waiting for!  Poor thing.  So the whole experience had been horrid for her.   Yet for me if even if I hadn’t got my celery, I’d have come away feeling happy.  Because of the tall beautiful woman and her inner laughter.

On my way back, some council workers were cleaning up the beach.  I was asking one of them if she’d seen the keys, when another woman approached, dangling them!!  I was quite inexplicably thrilled and walked with her to the beach restaurant.  The man had already left, but I’m pretty sure he’ll call back.

I walked back home shopping be-laden, thinking that it’s an amazingly rewarding experience is to be part of somebody else’s solution, and for somebody else to be part of yours, even in small ways.  And being overawed at how life draws people together so that they can have these experiences.

Most of all, how they can fill your heart.

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