Maya Angelou said it perfectly. We are all navigating this life with our own baggage, our own stuff.
I was just at Trader Joes, I had just come from yoga class, I was messy and sweaty and I think I hope to be invisible and not offend anyone when I shop after yoga, but it also happens to be a convenient time to shop because I’m already out and on the road. Most of the time, as an older woman, people don’t really start up conversations with me but how special it is when they do! The young lady checking me out was very friendly, and each time she asked me something I just wish I didn’t take so long to respond, I was just unused to this happening. When you’re a young attractive woman, people pay attention to you all the time. Men of all ages check you out, and young women do to, to size up the competition. It’s almost refreshing to become somewhat invisible as we age, there’s a lot less pressure on us to look a certain way when we leave the house, but maybe that creates too much temptation to withdraw into our own heads. So here was this lovely young woman asking me if I had anything fun I was up to today, and commenting that she was pretty impressed since I carried all my groceries in a hand bin instead of a cart, and it was full. That comment made me feel good!
Two days ago I was helping a friend set up for a shiva, where people who are Jewish gather to pay respects after a funeral. I knew I wouldn’t really know anyone there and most of the time I think I acted like hired help, helping to keep the ice stocked and clean up dishes and such. But a young man, also not family and I believe a guest of a grandchild, acted friendly and we had a wonderful conversation about neurologic medicine (he was a medical student). Both these people went out of their way on days when I was feeling both uncomfortable and invisible and they both gave me the wonderful gift of their attention.
You could argue that I’m a very lucky woman to have had these experiences, and I would be the first to agree with you, that I am. But perhaps the difference between us is that I jumped in and took the leap to engage with both individuals once I realized what was occurring, where as others stay stuck in that lonely internal misery. I also realized and appreciated the gift and in both occasions, the gift these two strangers gave me by reaching out made my day something special. I heard it said the other day that if we keep looking backwards, we can’t see where we’re going, but much of the time that’s exactly where we live, in our own minds, either focused ahead or behind us. We can miss the gift of life right in front of us if we do. Or we can try to live more focused and present, and both reach out to others around us and accept and be grateful for this moment, this day, this gift of attention I have to acknowledge your presence and existence and you mine. We will all be happier if we do just that, or try to do more of that, each day we live. And what a wonderful world this will be if we do.