19 July 2010

a bit of kindness

I had thought to chatter a bit about the marvelous Carole King and James Taylor concert one evening in Oakland--and it was wicked indeed...the memories that the songs evoked (my oh my), the energy of a live performance, the quick dry humor of James Taylor, the genuine care and friendship that could clearly be seen between two people who are each in their own right quite accomplished song writers and composers, as well as performers--but other moments leading up to that night are just as pronounced in my mind and bear sharing.

I must begin by saying that I don't know how or why people (strangers) happen on me, how they know to talk to me and know that I will talk to them in kind (because I don't want to appear rude).  It just seems to happen.  I can have my nose buried in a book or in knitting, my back to them, my body language saying "I'm on quiet time with myself"--it doesn't seem to phase some people.  And although many friends will shake their head with a firm "I don't believe you", I am a shy person, one who finds it difficult to talk to strangers and is uncomfortable in large crowds.  Having said that, I met two people on Monday.  Two people who needed some conversation, some contact at that time in their lives.  One, a twenty-one year old woman who, with her grandfather's support and love, is going to college, despite the wreck her parents made of their family (her words not mine).  I closed my computer, put aside my notebook, and we talked about life, struggles, and perseverance.  The other was a middle-aged man, fresh out of prison and living on the streets.  His face had been badly sunburned a few days before but was starting to heal.  He asked to share the shade under a tree where I was reading.  We talked about choices in life and possibilities of new chances.  He asked for a hug as I left--I declined--but shook his hand and told him it was good to have meet him.  I tell you about these two encounters because it helped shape my thoughts and attention throughout the rest of the day and into the evening.

Later that evening, after we had been driving around looking for a spot to have some dinner in Oakland, without luck (one choice was closed, another was too long of a wait), we chose Denny's (I know...it's very much not my "thing" but I wasn't going to the concert without something half way fresh and fulfilling inside my body, and the choices later would be pizza and fried foods, so Denny's it was).  They were quite busy with both the concert and an A's baseball game the same night, and they were short-staffed.  Despite these issues, the waitress was courteous, good-natured, and warm, sharing her warm smile with everyone.  As we left, I handed her a tip much beyond the standard.  She stopped, tears in her eyes, and gave me a hug--the kind of hug that is reserved for long-time friends or beloved relatives.

Yes, the concert was brilliant, but it was the "topper" to an entire day with bits of human connections.  I think sometimes we run through our days, link with our circle of people, and forget that there are so many moments of kindness we could give to others, to strangers.  Usually it's the small gestures that can turn a person's day around, like Anna's encounter at the grocery market.

No comments: