This last weekend I found myself with a little time to waste – something that rarely, if ever, happens for me these days. I was shooting for a magazine and because of a scheduling conflict for one of the businesses in the article, I found myself with an unexpected hour before my next appointment. It was early Memorial Day, the streets were all but empty, shop signs hadn’t swung to “open” yet and I found myself driving through downtown Portland trying to decide what to do. First I went and found the Portland sign and snapped a few pictures, I’d always wanted to do that. It took about 5 minutes. Okay, fifty-five more minutes to go. My stomach gave me my next idea, I found a Starbucks and ordered their ‘Perfect Oatmeal’. Finding a little table in the far corner, I sat down, pulled out my book and prepared to try to catch up on some much missed reading while I enjoyed my hot breakfast. But reading in a coffee shop has never been an ideal location, I’m too much of a people watcher. My eyes wandered to an older gentleman sitting at the next table. His skin was translucent, his hair all but gone, I guessed him to be in his late 80′s. I watched him as he watched all the busy people bustling around him. I was curious, I wondered about his story, what brought him to this little shop today? He had no newspaper to read, just sitting with his paper cup observing each patron as they rushed in and rushed out. Did he shrug his shoulders at the fast pace by which everyone around him was spinning, did he come here just so he could feel some iteration even if it was only from a distance? He smiled at the boy across from us who was making a mountain from the crumbs of his muffin. I wanted to know, so I finished the last bite of my oatmeal, tossed it in the garbage and turned to find him now watching me. I smiled, came over and asked if I could sit with him. And so we sat… and talked. I told him about my kids, work and living in Hawaii, he told me that he had no children, had moved to Portland 5 years ago because this is where the Red Cross had relocated him after having everything destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I wonder what it must have been like? I asked if he would ever go back, he responded, “it’s all gone.” I couldn’t imagine – to spend your whole life in one town, working in one job and retiring believing that you will finish out your days in your same home you’ve always had - to have it all wiped away like an eraser to a chalkboard as if your story had never been written at all. We finished out our conversation, I thanked him for sharing his morning with me and said good bye and rushed out into the city… Back to the never ending rush, full of deadlines and needs pressing to be met with people filling up the streets and door signs swinging over to open.
The moral of the story is this. This world is full of people, each of us are running so hard and so fast that we don’t have time to notice the opportunities for kindness that are always presenting themselves. I normally would have never been able to stop. I would be rushing in, crabbing my hot cider and rushing out (if I even had that much time) before I ran off for the next appointment. We are constantly bombarded by so much, so often and at such a fast pace that we are missing the chance to make real connections. I’d forgotten how refreshing it is to stop and smell the flowers.
“Always remember to slow down in life; live, breathe, and learn; take a look around you whenever you have time and never forget everything and every person that has the least place within your heart.” - Author Unknown