Looking through a different window
Recently, I exited one of our county buildings behind two other men when a woman who appeared to be homeless approached us. Her clothes were worn out, she looked weathered and was seeking some help. She held some papers in her shaking hands as she walked up the steps.
The two men immediately turned their backs to her as she approached. "Can you please tell me where to turn these papers in?" she asked. I directed her as best as I could to a man inside the building.
One of the men turned to me and said, "That was sure nice of you to help her." I said I really didn't think anything of it. He acted like it was a big deal to reach out, to connect with this woman. I'd like think that, one day, he will remember the gesture and respond in kind to someone else in need and not be afraid.
Then I wondered how many times in my life I've acted as he did, ignoring someone because of my own insecurities. What am I — or what was I — afraid of? How many times in a day do we let our social conditioning stop us from connecting or being real with another human being? What do we fear?
Part of my recent personal journey has been to try to stop attaching behaviors to thoughts that are not true. The result is I am more present in my daily life.
A dear friend of mine suggested that whenever I am struggling with clarity or acting a certain way in a given situation, I should "try looking through a different window."
Often, we have preconceived ideas about a particular person or situation that may not be real. However, reality is often easier to handle than the fear we feel about the untold scenarios circulating in our minds.
Perhaps the window we are looking through is cracked, clouded or blocked by something or someone. Perhaps the window is simply blocked by our own thoughts.
I want to share a lovely story that happened a couple of weeks ago, as it was told to me by Lacey Carroll, team manager at New Earth Market:
A woman parked her cart and two dogs in front of the market. She came inside and browsed a while, then selected a small soup and salad to eat.
"She was very sweet and loved the market, albeit I could tell she felt a little intimidated. We all smiled at her to assure her she was welcome here, and she soon started to inquire about a few items in the store," Lacey said.
When the woman came through the check-out line, her total was less than $5. It seemed to be a difficult amount for her to pay, but she paid and sat down in the café to eat.
While the woman was paying, the next woman in line was watching. "At first, I thought she was offended by this woman who, by her clothes and demeanor, was obviously homeless," Lacey said. "However, after the woman left to sit down, this wonderful lady asked Angelica (the cashier) if it was OK for her to buy a gift card for the homeless woman."
Lacey said, "Angelica and I were surprised by her generosity and even more so when she asked if it could go up to $100." The woman asked if one of the market employees could deliver it to the homeless woman to keep her identity a secret.
"The selflessness that I observed was truly moving," Lacey said. She approached the woman in the café and told her that someone had wanted to see her have a good day and hoped the gift card would help.
"I handed her the gift card. She was shocked, looked around and asked, 'Who?' I told her the person had left and didn't want to be known. She had tears in her eyes and said, 'Oh, thank you, thank you,'" all before she knew the card's value, Lacey said.
When the woman later came to the register to learn the card's value, she was floored, Lacey said. "She shopped around the store and got essential items like soap, toilet paper, bread, cheese and dog food — things that anyone else would take for granted, she was enthralled to be able to afford. She left a very uplifted person, all because of a very sweet woman in line," Lacey said.
Kevin Cotter is managing general partner at New Earth Market in Yuba City.