The gift of of genuine human contact can happen anywhere
I received such a tender gift this morning. At the grocery store.
Not exactly where one expects to get a lovely moment in time. On the other hand, if we are open to it, these moments can happen in the most interesting of places.
In a world that has been traumatized by pandemic, social unrest, divisiveness, suspicion, masks covering our faces but not our fears. In this world there are human beings who are hungry for genuine contact, even for a brief moment. If real and genuine enough, these moments can nourish and help sustain us. They can touch our hearts and fill them, at least for a while.
I am a woman of solitude, yet realize I also need human contact and a tribe that I can feel a part of. The tribe of my friends, the tribe of my neighborhood. the tribe of fellow writers, fellow artists.
I usually go to the same grocery store, as it is conveniently located fairly close to my home. I have been going there for years, so faces become familiar and greetings are exchanged. To a woman living alone with no family nearby, these greetings can feel like a lifeline at times. Those times when I may simply need the acknowledgment from another human being on this earth at this moment. To share that moment with someone.
This morning, I had just finished checking out with my cart ready to go to my car. There had been smiles from some of the staff, and I felt included. Seen. There is one particular clerk, whose name if I knew it at one point, I do not remember. But I remember this friendly outgoing young man. This young man who had at one point shared some photos of his new puppy.
There he was, coming to help at the checkout line. He smiled, said a big hello. I asked how his puppy was doing. He made eye contact, sighed, and told me that he no longer had this sweet young dog. The puppy had exhibited some medical issues, and after taking him to the emergency vet, this poor young man realized that he could not afford the huge bill that they quoted him that it would take to help his beloved pet. He had to give the puppy up, hoping someone else would be able to give it a home and the care that it needed.
I felt so badly for him. He talked about how much he had come to love this dog, how painful it was to let him go. And he began to cry. And then he apologized for crying. I asked him to please never apologize for crying, to please let himself express those feelings and let them out, that I understood how this kind of loss can tear a part of your heart out, having lost several pets myself within the last several years. He continued to cry, and I began to shed a few tears myself.
He continued to talk about this sweet companion.
We shared our frustrations with some of the experiences that we have had at various vet emergency clinics during this pandemic. Waiting in our cars all night long, not able to hold or see our pets while we waited for them to be examined, sometimes for many hours.
We talked a bit more. I gently touched his shoulder, told him how very sorry that I was, and that I understood what that kind of pain feels like. That these sweet beings come into our hearts and become our families.
He nodded, said that he had to go to the break room for a while then, to compose himself for work. I again told him how very sorry that I was, and told him to please take extra good care of himself.
I came home.
I feel such empathy for him and for myself, remembering my own losses, my own sweet furry companions. Gone too soon. Holes in my heart. Lump in my throat. Grief that is not soothed, but must be honored as it takes the time that it needs.
And I felt like this gentle man and I had connected in such a genuine, heartfelt way. In a way that is a sacred gift. A gift that we humans can give to each other. And it can happen at the most random moments. In the most random of places.
It simply took slowing down and noticing what is around me. The stopping to see someone else at a moment in time, ask them how they are, and really listen. And be there with them.
As I listen to their pain, I also validate my own. And I connect.
And I left the store this morning, feeling a bit more open, nourished, grateful, and a little less alone in this world.