I wrote Connections in 2018 to share how much I enjoy connecting with strangers.Today I’m feeling a bit disconnected and wonder if we will ever get back to a time where we freely talk to strangers.If we continue to wear masks for the foreseeable future I’m afraid we will never make the same kind of connections.I don’t know about you, but putting on a mask automatically feels like isolation.A mask says, I’m keeping to myself, I’m separate from you, don’t come near me, don’t talk to me.I can understand the importance of wearing face masks, but how long will this last?I’m sitting here today longing for the good old days and it was only a couple of months ago!
Connections (May 2018)
Today I made a quick trip to the grocery store and met a delightful gentleman. My new BFF looked a little scruffy, not homeless, but maybe someone without anyone at home to suggest he shave and clean up a bit before running to the store.
He was exiting the store with the weekly flyer clutched in his hand. As I approached, he threw out his arms and said, ‘What can I do for you today?’ He proceeded to show me the flyer and informed me the store didn’t have the chuck steak that was advertised. He told me he’d come to the store yesterday, the day the flyer came out, and they didn’t have the chuck steak either. But he was happy as he showed me a ‘rain check’ for a later purchase. I laughed and suggested the next time it rained he was all set. He laughed with me and we wished each other a good day.
These are the kinds of chance encounters that make my life brighter. Hopefully we both went on our way thinking all is not so bad with world. We each met someone who made us smile.
I recently read about a man who felt isolated and depressed. He sat in the local Mall for two hours hoping for someone to simply acknowledge him with a smile. He left without ever being noticed but he found a new mission in life. To make sure that didn’t happen to others. I think I might have met him at the grocery store!
My daughter thinks I’m a little strange because I say hello or good morning to people as we pass on the sidewalk or in the parking lot. I have to admit sometimes strangers seem a bit startled, but they usually smile and acknowledge the greeting with one of their own.
I wouldn’t make a good New Yorker, no one makes eye contact in the Big Apple. I guess there are so many people on the streets it would be impossible to acknowledge all of them and better just to keep your head down like everyone else. I’d hate to live my life that way.
I believe we need to connect with people. This seems like such a small thing, but imagine how nice it would be to have someone, out of the blue, say, “That color is beautiful on you, or what a lovely blouse”.
Last week when I was leaving Trader Joe’s, a lady about my age with lovely silver hair, was getting out of her car. As I passed, I called out to her and said, “Your hair is beautiful”, She looked over at me surprised, she smiled and thanked me. As I walked by the car, her husband smiled and said, “I tell her that all the time”. There you go, three people enjoyed that small connection and we were all smiling.
On the flip side, as uplifting as I find it to interact with strangers, it is disappointing to me when an excursion to the library or Walgreens doesn’t produce the opportunity to talk to someone. It brightens my day to chat with a fellow card shopper looking for the perfect card. What’s better than the chance to share a funny card with someone right at the moment you open it and feel that first laugh tickle your throat.
While I was stretching to reach the top shelf in the frozen food section of Target, a little voice behind me said ,”Why is everything on the top shelf”. I turned to see a tiny older lady approaching with her cart. A tall young lady passed us and I said, “I just find one of these young gals to reach stuff for me”. The young gal smiled as she passed us. We all moved on our way around the store until I ran into the little lady in the cereal section looking up at the Raisin Brand on the top shelf. I thought I might be able to reach it but the plastic guard rail kept her Raisin Brand firmly in place. My Great Grains cereal was nestled on the same shelf about two cereals down. So there we stood. We waited a beat and sure enough our young lady came strolling down the aisle, we waited while she grabbed a couple of boxes of Cheerios from a middle shelf. She noticed our frustrated expressions and offered to help us. Maybe she was thinking of her grandmother being in the same position someday. She easily reached the cereal for us, we thanked her and I suggested to my new friend we might consider switching to Cheerios, at least we could reach them.
I think this all comes down to the Golden Rule. I enjoy talking to people and offering to help if I can. I have to admit it doesn’t always work out. A few weeks ago, while I was leaving the grocery store, a lady using a walker had two small bags of light weight items. As she was going out the door the wind caught the bags and they were getting tangled up with the walker. I pushed my cart up passed her and turned around to offer help. We were sorting out the bags when her eyes got really big, I turned around and my cart had rolled out the door and into the roadway in front of the store. Two lanes of cars were stopped everyone watching my groceries sail across the driveway. I turned and ran after my cart and left her standing there with the tangled bags a bewildered look on her face.
I don’t know how the ‘never meet a stranger philosophy’ applies to the introvert. I guess I’m their worst nightmare.