Last post (October 8th) ended with the promise to-be-continued. I was attempting to publish before midnight to avoid breaking the daily posting chain, that was the reason for the abrupt ending. Needless to say I was too late and we are back to the beginning, again. It was a valiant try, I have to say.
So, I was part way through telling the story of my trip to the grocery store for my contribution to our turkey dinner today. I was working through my list and was having trouble finding the canned cranberry sauce that goes so well with turkey. It’s tart and makes for a nice pairing.
Anyway, here’s the part that was unusual and unforgettable. I spied a young woman stopped in the middle of the aisle looking over her grocery list and I decided to ask her if she knew where the cranberry sauce was. (they keep changing things around just about the time you figure out where things are) It appeared that her family didn’t have cranberry sauce as a tradition because she didn’t really know what I was talking about. I was at a loss as to how to describe it. In a way it is in a category all it’s own. Cranberry is a fruit that it is cooked up like the jam you would put on toast but it is used more like the mustard and ketchup you would add to a sandwich or spread on a hot dog bun. How in the world do you describe that to someone?
We were in the canned fruit aisle and after a complex discussion she thought it was at the end on the top shelf. I said I would check it out but continued on down the aisle away from the section she was describing. I was thinking that sometimes they have racks of seasonal things like cranberry sauce closer to the meat department and thought I would look there first. The cream cheese was on my way there and I was stopped, looking it over, when someone approached me from behind.
It was the young woman with a jar in her hand. She had gone back to look over the section she had in mind and found what she thought I was looking for. It was cranberries alright. A fancy version I had never seen before but it looked like it would work.
As I think back, the memorable thing about the encounter was her kindness. She took the time to look for the item I needed and then made the effort to find me and make sure this was what I wanted. What I expected was the usual response where people consider the discussion closed and continue on with their shopping. To have someone go to these lengths for a stranger and to fully engage like she cared was truly amazing. And deeply touching. I think there was a connection we both felt in that moment.
There were clues that we moved in different circles and probably had different life experiences. I knew that when I approached her. But it didn’t matter to me. I looked her in the eyes when we talked and it was a comfortable discussion, it didn’t matter to her either and we were contributing equally.
These encounters don’t happen nearly often enough but when they do they are unforgettable. Something significant passes between us and I, for one, will remember.
Sometimes it’s as little as catching someone’s eyes and smiling. This doesn’t seem like much but a smile can make our day.
It’s true that we all have a need to be seen. Not for show sake but for the deep need in our lonely or hurting hearts.
I will never forget a shopping trip where a father and son came around the end of an aisle I was waiting to go down. The encounter was seconds long and as they passed me I looked into the eyes of the man in the wheelchair and then into the eyes of the older man I assumed was his father pushing it. It shook me to my core. The meeting felt like it was meant to be. I can’t express what I saw in their eyes. I just knew they needed someone to look in their eyes and see them. To see their pain. I had no idea who they were or anything about them but I don’t think I will ever forget.
Looking into strangers eyes is not something I do often. I’m an introvert and making eye contact is not always easy or comfortable. I am open to the possibility though and as a result all of the memorable encounters have been spontaneous. Maybe my radar is set to recognize hurting people, I don’t know, but when I feel an inner urge to look up I go for it.
I mention this doesn’t come naturally because it would be easy to assume this is just an everyday part of who I am, and that not everyone is like me. Contrary to these impressions it isn’t easy for me. Anyone can do it if they are aware of people around them and are willing to be there for them in some small way. It’s worth it when you make contact with someone needing a smile and maybe a hello. I have many spontaneous encounters I could share and I’ve even joked about writing a book about what, in the moment, feels like a divine encounter.
In another setting I have discovered the importance of thoughtful eye contact.
I think it started out for me as self-protection, looking people in the eye to gauge their intentions for good or evil. To this day there continues to be some element of protectiveness in place when speaking to people I don’t know well. This is where the contact starts, but then it continues to a different level because now I’m interested in what they are saying, or not saying, and I want to know who they are. Some folks are uncomfortable with the intensity of such contact but most of the time it is welcomed and the response often turns into lengthy conversations. The truth is that most people are starving for meaningful contact. We all have a deep need to be seen, heard, and understood.
It still shocks me how deep the needs are out there.
Maybe this recognition of need comes easily to me because I have my own life’s deep unmet need. It takes one to know one as the old saying goes. Multiple interactions have also reinforced the certainty in my mind and heart.
Years ago there was a man who was convinced I was in love with him. I asked him why he would think that. He said it was because I treated him like he was a human being. He felt seen, heard, and worth something. I’m convinced he wouldn’t have thought that way if he was without an unmet need.
I think that was the beginning of the starvation awareness for me. I wish more of us would catch this vision, especially in everyday relationships. Just think of the positive revolution that could happen and what it would mean if we felt secure and valued and offered the same to others.
Have you noticed the deep need phenomenon in people around you?
They say it is more blessed to give than receive. It’s true.
There is something magical that happens inside of us when we set aside our own needs and step up to be there for others.
So this is the rest of the cranberry story. Like other past encounters I’m sure I will have a hard time forgetting this sweet young lady. I don’t even want to. I’m sure our few minutes together will reside in my precious memories box forever.
Try it, you will see I’m right.