Thursday, October 6, 2016

Life School: Stranger-angels

Above, shown in squint-producing
lettering (sorry) is a very true thing that I wish I'd said, 
but which I won't forget.

Some people read something like that Maya Angelou quote and pin it where they'll remember it. Some consider such a tender truth banal, and don't take it seriously. Some applaud such truths publicly but don't really practice them in their own lives. 
I'll cover that third one in Pet Peeves #3, which is scheduled to appear as soon as I must deal with another government agency, or Comcast.
Exchanges between people, all kinds, fascinate me almost more than anything, but none more than those between an intuitive stranger and another in need.

I can't remember if I fed Gus this morning (that's not really true. I think I did), but like it was yesterday, I remember walking into a psychology stat course where my professor was talking to a student. The student, about nineteen, looked exhausted and near tears. The professor, a doctor with a very intense gaze, looked into the boy's face with an expression of caring I'd never seen before.  
"How you doing?" he asked."Okay?"
The boy nodded, "Yeah, better."
The tenderness of this simple question was perfect, and its effect was obvious. 

I never forgot it.

And it was me once, in need, sitting on a train after a serious writing setback had me thinking I wasn't meant to be in the writing business at all. I still remember the facial expression of a stranger who passed me while I was deep in thought over plan B which was:  I don't know what to do now. She was several years older than I, and she fixed me with a long expression of such knowing it halted my thoughts mid-spiral.  As clear as water, it just said, You're supposed to be here. It's part of it.

I still think of it. 

Last week, a cashier at our supermarket held the line up for so long helping a very elderly lady locate her ATM card in her giant bag-of-everything that everyone gave up and went elsewhere. I stayed.
"That's the one!" the cashier said to her, "That's right, just swipe it right there."
"Here?" she asked.
"That's right. You're all set, now." 
She didn't know the buttons to push and he came around to show her. She looked at me, and I smiled. Finally, after several apologies, she was on her way. 

So visibly relieved was the woman, I wondered how often she encountered the tired tone, the show of patience, the sigh of inconvenience that so many busy people use with others who don't move fast enough to please them. I'll RE-cover that in Pet Peeves #3, which is scheduled to appear as soon as I must deal with any kind of insurance issue, or hold music, or both.

When it was my turn, I thanked the cashier for his patience.

"It's easier for me to be patient than it was for her to get that done with people staring at her," he said. "Also I am a youth counselor with teenagers. You can deal with anyone after that."

He smiled at that, the thought of those kids. Those lucky kids. 


  1. What a great and kind person that cashier was...and yes, those are some lucky kids.

    I'm working on impatience. It does no one any good - least of all me.

    1. Gigi, thank you for visiting and for saying that. Impatience is such a human, but momentary state. Patience is much harder but has such longer lasting effects, I think. I admire people who work at it.

  2. I am new to your blog and have loved reading your entries.
    Now I will never forget that quote, either.

    1. And I will never not love new visitors. Thank you and welcome, K.

  3. Oh I love this. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Paula, thank you very much. I love stumbling upon these things.

  4. loved your post an easy way to be kind to others and make someone smile
    come see us at

  5. I LOVE this! Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone go out of their way for someone else. And nothing makes me sadder than the opposite. Thank you for sharing this today. I needed it! :)

    1. Agree, Diane. It makes my day to see someone spend a little time on the person who needs it, and especially if they behave like they do it all the time.

  6. those small kindnesses make the biggest differences, don't they? thanks for the reminder.