"Change, when it comes, cracks everything open."
Dorothy Allen

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

I try not to be a cynical person.  I try to believe in the inherent goodness of my fellow man.  Now, it doesn't mean that I think everyone wants to be my friend and that I would trust perfect strangers in my house, around my kids or with my money (I'm not a flaming idiot), but I do believe that most people live their life with good intentions.  I believe that a good attitude and positive thoughts can impact the reaction of the people around us.

When people want to judge me and Sebastian on his actions in public, I try to keep an open mind and an open heart.  To date, I have had way, way more positive interactions than negative.  Maybe I just don't see the negative ones, that's possible I guess. 

I remember one time in particular. Sebastian was about 2, 2 and a half, and completely non verbal  (remember, he really didn't start to talk until he was about 4, after his ear surgery.)  He and I were sitting in the food court at the Pen Centre.  I was working with his signs, things like eat, drink, more, please, all done.  He was very engaged and laughing and making his special noises.  I happened to look up at one point, and I saw two ladies sitting at a table nearby, watching us and whispering back and forth.

Right away, I felt my face get hot and red.  I got my back up and I got angry in an instant.  I automatically assumed that they were judging and making fun.  I was ready to blow. 

I took a breath.  Another.  Another.  One more.  Then I started to listen, really listen to what they were saying.

And what they were saying was that Sebastian was the cutest little boy they had seen.  That every time he laughed, they would laugh.  They were wondering if he was deaf, or what the issue might be.  They recognized some of the signs, but not all of them.  The one lady thought it was wonderful how much fun he was having learning. 

I felt so guilty that I had judged.  They were lovely ladies, and I had been ready to punch them in the face.  When I left, I stopped at their table.  At the time, we didn't' have the autism diagnosis, so I just talked about the developmental delays, and explained his signs, etc.  They were a bit embarrassed, but were warm and friendly.  I think it was a very positive experience, all the way around.

As I get older, it is becoming a bit easier.  I don't worry about being judged as much (trust me, I still worry.  I am still human.  I just don't worry as much.  And I worry about being judged for different things. )

Today, I had another great experience.  This is my second in about 2 weeks, so it seems like the universe is trying to tell me something. 

I was in line at Sobeys, buying just a few items.  I always wait patiently in lines.  I was in retail, I get what it is like to look up and see people staring you down, with hate in their eyes.  I always smile when I make eye contact with the cashier.  Especially if she is trying her best. 

So, today, when she looked up, I smiled.  She looked at me, looked away, and looked at me again.  She didn't smile. 

Instead of getting pissed, I just shrugged it off, and contemplated buying People magazine, even though I don't need it.  Eventually it was my turn at the counter.  I put my items up and said Hello.  I smiled again.  This time, she smiled back.

"I have to say that your hair is striking".  I just smile.  It is red and orange and matches my coat.  Yes, you could use the word striking to describe it.  I have heard much worse. :)

She continued "When I looked up, I saw you standing in line.  Everyone else had dark coats on, and you standing there, in your orange coat, with your beautiful bright hair, it caught me off guard."

I laughed and agreed.   I explained that my hairdresser just does my hair the way she wants, that my hair changes about every 6 weeks or so and that orange is one of my favourite colours.

"You stood out.  You looked like fireworks at night, compared to everyone else."

Well.  That is just about the most poetic thing I have ever heard from a grocery store clerk, in all my life. 

So, thank you.  Thank you for noticing.  Thank you for saying it out loud.  Thank you for judging and finding me suitable. 

Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "nice to get a compliment from a complete stranger"

No comments:

Post a Comment