but it didn’t start out that way.
I was feeling frustrated by my lack of human connections being made in the city. I saw two friends unexpectedly today — one of my college friends came in from the ‘burbs to spend the day at the beach, and while we were standing in line at the French Market to get crêpes, an old high school friend appeared at the same crêperie — it was great to see them both, and to once again appreciate small world encounters. And yet at the end of my day I felt like I’d had no human interactions all day.
I walked and moped and sat down and wrote.
City folk are like the skyscrapers around them.
The buildings compete for architectural bravado, but en masse they’re just a concrete crowd in the sky. The modern buildings are shiny — all metal and glass — and on their surface is the reflection of the buildings around them. I can’t see what’s inside; I don’t pay much attention; and as I walk past, they remain unmoved.
City folk are hard.
They don’t smile, don’t say ‘hi’, don’t make eye contact, don’t have conversations, don’t have much care for each other. When I walk past their masses I can see my reflection in their shiny metal and glass shades: and I look cold, un-smiling, alone in a crowd, like them and the buildings around us.
On the whole, humanity is full of hurt and hurtful in return; people too self-absorbed to look outside of their own worlds. But every now and again, a single person breaks this norm, and it is surprising. They act kindly, speak truthfully, think selflessly, and help another person.
And isn’t the whole made up of its individual parts?
I was sitting with these thoughts when I got onto the train to go home.
A little girl sat next to me, her father sat a few seats down, and I offered to switch seats with her father so they could sit together. She said No, that’s okay. A couple minutes passed, and while I was looking out the window she was staring at me - the curious, admiring way young girls sometimes look at older girls. I said I liked her skirt, and she said Thank you. A minute or so later she said she liked my earrings, and I said Thanks. We got to chit-chatting about summer, and she said she was going into fourth grade. I wanted to impart some wisdom, so I said Oh I remember fourth grade, (even though I didn’t…) It was fun, (except actually gradeschool was terrible for me, so I followed up with,) but sometimes not so fun. She nodded and said Yeah and the rest of the train ride was word-free.
But then a couple stations later, as she was about to get off the train with her dad, she said It was nice to meet you and gave me such a warmhearted smile. I was taken aback by how genuine that overused statement sounded when she said it, and I genuinely replied You too. Off the train, on the platform, she looked in through the window and smiled at me again, and I smiled and waved back while she talked to her dad (with much more enthusiasm and wordiness than she had to me, thankfully!). She made me feel better.
When I got home and checked my facebook, a lovely message awaited in my inbox. A really inspiring friend whom I’ve only met twice wrote me about a chance encounter she had tonight with a man who needed her unique help — an encounter that turned into an incredible act of kindness, and a bittersweet, humbling, hope-inspiring story. I’ll quote her here, and hope she doesn’t mind, but she ended with saying,
“I think every old person needs a willing ear to listen to their life’s story and I think (and agree with the old man) that us young people can learn a lot from our parents and grand parents if we listen to the wisdom they have to share.”
She also shared with me a list of great things to do, which I happily share with all of you:
“Let yourself fall / Learn to observe snakes / Plant impossible gardens / Let someone dangerous in for tea / Make small signs that say “yes”, spread them all over your house / Become a friend of freedom and uncertainty / Look forward to dreaming / Cry at the movies / Swing as high as you can on a swing at moonlight / Maintain different moods / Refuse to be “responsible” / Do it out of love / Take a lot of naps / Pass on money / Do it now, the money will follow / Laugh a lot / Bathe in the moonlight / Dream wild, imaginative dreams / Draw on the walls / Read every day / Imagine you are enchanted / Giggle with children / Listen to old people / Open yourself / Dive in / Be free / Praise Yourself / Let go of fear / Play with everything / Preserve the child in you / You are innocent / Build a castle of covers / Get wet / Hug trees”
— Joseph Beuys
(Today I witnessed more good deeds than I’d done, and I’m grateful for that.)