Friday, January 23, 2015

Goethe and Strangers in Parking Lots

"Each one sees what he carries in his heart." Goethe

One day last fall, I was walking to my car after buying absolutely nothing at a craft store. (Yay, me!) A woman in front of me locked her elderly car with a real key and walked toward the store, a bit unsteady in heels and overdressed for a morning of craft shopping.

Her body language caught my attention, even at a distance, and made me think of a beaten puppy...shoulders drawn up, back hunched, head down, trying to make herself smaller.

As she drew closer, I caught her eye and smiled. Her face lit up in a beautiful smile, her shoulders went down, and I realized she was extremely tall and thin. For a moment, just a moment, she made eye contact. Then, her eyes hit the pavement again, and she turtled down, putting up her defenses, withdrawing into her shell.

It broke my heart.

Each one sees what he carries in his heart. I've smiled at a lot of strangers in parking lots, especially since I began easing into mindfulness last summer. Sometimes, people don't see, sometimes they see and don't react, but mostly they smile back, comfortably, to another human, an equal.

This woman, however, couldn't comfortably accept a smile from a stranger in a parking lot. What sort of abuse, what sort of shame beats down a human being so completely? I have no idea and cannot imagine.

But her brilliant smile and its quick, absolute disappearance still haunt me.

I pray she finds love and peace and compassion and kindness...and that they change what she carries in her heart. I also pray my smile helped her, even in just a small way, even though I will never know.


1 comment:

  1. I talk to my girls about this idea. That when we give something nice, like a smile or a helping hand, that we are sending ripples out into the world. We create a positive momentum, and maybe that person will forward it on, by giving a smile to the next person they pass. Or perhaps we change the direction of someone's day, by giving a smile or a "hello" when they were feeling down and needed a smile. We will never know, but I love the magic when I smile, or give a helping hand, or say hello, and the person receiving it lights up. :-)


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