You may not have audible words with a stranger, but a sincere look in their eyes permeates your being and you feel their warmth. Many years ago when I was in my teens, I remember being out shopping for the holidays at the mall. I went to hurriedly pass a family to be on my busy way. Their little girl about 8 years old, holding her mom’s hand, turned back to see me with the most true smile I’d ever seen. She was red headed, freckled and developmentally delayed. She looked so directly at me. It was one of those moments that locks into your mind like a photograph ~ forever. I’ve never forgotten her face or the feeling she gave me with no words, just her genuine smile.
Since advising my employer of our family plans for relocation, I’ve been moved out of my high paced international logistics position so someone else can fill my shoes. Now I work at the peddler window where people off the street come in with metal for recycling. It’s quite a change of pace.
We have many regular customers who forage through trash, roadside litter and even dumpsters for their next paycheck. They are recycling and great for the environment, but if you saw several of them on the street, you may divert your path. You’d probably assume they were homeless. Honestly, I think some of them are homeless. But over the last month, I’ve grown to enjoy many of their odd ways, toothless smiles or words to me throughout the day.
Maybe once they had it all, but through life lost a loved one, lost a good job, saw war first hand or encountered mental illness that changed them. Now they are the empty shell of who they once were or a different person all-together. First hand, I understand how things like that can happen. Never do I feel that I judge less fortunate people, but too often I judge people of (what seems on the outside) good fortune, which isn’t right of me either. My mom really impressed upon all of us to treat others as we would want to be treated. She was a saint and the most genuine person I have even known.
So as it gets colder, I try to work quickly to not keep them outside in the weather. Try to remember their names and address them with warmth. Just try to show them respect and share a smile. When one in particular gets his cash and says “Now I can get a case of beer and a joint!”, I look at him, grin and reply “Or you can go buys some grapes and broccoli. That’d be good for you, Fred!”. He just smiles, laughs to me and says he’ll see me tomorrow.
There have been many peddlers to just give the warmest eye contact, the deep into your soul kind, and wish me a Merry Christmas. They make me feel true kindness and prompt me to put it down on paper and feel thanks for the good fortune we have.