Late night grocery run and I’m only inside for 30 minutes. He was sitting on the bench outside when I went in, and still there when I came back out.
Put my groceries in the car, glance over at him and as I drive out, I roll down the window, lean out and ask, “Do you need a ride?” He responds, “Oh, yes!” When I say, “Where are you going?” he points up with his arm, in a vague direction towards 122nd, so I say…”Hop in!”
Immediately he says, “Oh, no, no…it’s okay!! My brother is coming to pick me up in a bit!” I’m not entirely sure that’s true, as he looks completely surprised that I even spoke to him, and even more so, that I offered a ride. He shakes his head and insists his brother will be there soon, so I say, “If you’re sure,” wave to him and drive off.
In that brief few moments of interaction, several things occur to me. In our society today (and for the most part, in the last many years), we’ve lived an insular life. We go to and from school, work, store, sports activities, school programs, etc—the normal day to day routine that becomes our lives. On occasion, we nod our heads; comment going to and from an event; smile and step aside; it all becomes rote as we move about within our lives.
Not in any way trying to take away from the majority of us who simply have such busy lives that it’s near impossible to interact with those around us–but quite simply, just plain recognizing that there are so many of us and so many different day to day interactions that are just missed because we’re so caught up in our world.
I’m just as guilty of it as the next person. I recently returned from a two week adventure with my middle child—who has started a career as a long haul truck driver. With absolutely nothing to do (I don’t have a Commercial Drivers License) but be a passenger, it gave me more than ample time to look at things from an entirely different viewpoint.
I took a shit ton of pictures and almost immediately posted them to my Instagram account. I was able to have long, drawn out discussions, talks and disagreements with my child…all while moving down the highway towards the next truck yard or load drop. I was able to peruse the road, roadside attractions, and really look at things that one never looks at when whipping down the road on the way to or from work. It’s really amazing what attracts your attention and what you focus on when you have literally nothing else to do!
I’m extremely fortunate in that I have a wonderful relationship with my two youngest children, so the idea of going on vacation with them…while seeming to be kind of odd to most people…is completely within the normal realm with my kiddos and myself. We have fun!! We share, we laugh, we mug for the cameras, we swap stories, we argue, we get down and dirty and then we hug, laugh and make up!! One of the truly terrific parts of being a mother is that I get to share so much of my life with them and they aren’t at all embarrassed or ashamed or put out that we do spend this time together. The youngest is 22 and the middle child (the truck driver) is 24…will be 25 in just a month.
I treasure each moment that I get to spend with them, and I’m realistic enough to see that it won’t be long before their lives will take over and a boyfriend or girlfriend will become more important and my time with them will become much more limited. It’s okay…it’s the natural course of things. But, as with my vacation with my child, I find it’s become easier and easier to interact and just talk to complete strangers when we stopped!! Is that odd?? Of course not, but most people avert their heads, turn away or just ignore those in passing.
As an introvert in my youth, I found it very hard to put myself out there. The thought of speaking to a stranger, much less offering them a ride would never have occurred to me, and if I’d thought about it, would probably have actually terrified me!! As I’ve gotten older, less inhibited maybe, or just more assured…I have no compunctions about talking to a complete stranger. I will ask questions about random things…clothes, hairstyles, handbags, random grocery items…no matter what, I seem to have no issue whatsoever with just talking to people. Maybe I’m finally realizing just what I was missing in my youth and am finally making up for it. Who knows!
The young man at the grocery store was pretty surprised, shocked and maybe even a little delighted that a complete stranger would offer him a ride. He insisted that someone was coming for him; if that was true, then fine. If not, then he had the pleasure of knowing, for just one brief moment, that someone he did not know and would probably never see again…offered him a ride home.
It truly is the small things, the random things, the things that hopefully set us apart from the everyday mundane, that makes us a part of the greater community. I hope I never shy away from doing the friendly, compassionate thing and I hope that each of you can, from time to time, find that compassion within yourselves as well.