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“Hello… Are You All Right?”

tumblr_m0bepo6OMA1r8u69vI have a cold today—I’ve had it since Saturday.  I didn’t sleep well last night due to impersonating a human faucet.  But I need to be at work for my late shift—in at 1 PM and out at 8 PM.  So, in order to cheer myself up, I go to a local diner for lunch.  I eat alone, reading my Kindle on my iPhone and when I am finished, I have about ten minutes to spare before I have to drive the rest of the way to work.

I walk to my car, unlock it, and get in, closing the door.  I notice vaguely that my car is facing an old, battered white pickup in the parking lot and that there is an older man sitting in it.  Then I pull out my iPhone, fire up the Kindle, and work on finishing my chapter.  Sometime in the reading, I pause.  Because I feel fairly crummy and my eyes have that tired, burning I-have-a-cold feeling to them, I shut them briefly and slump, leaning my head back against the head-rest.  I sigh.

I straighten a bit and go back to reading from my Kindle app.  And a moment later, there is movement to my left and a soft tapping at the glass of my driver-side window.  I glance up, surprised, and see that it is the old man who had been in the pickup truck.  He smiles carefully—I am sure that any man approaching a single woman in a parking lot must be acutely aware that he might be perceived as possibly a threat—and says, “Hello… are you all right?”  His voice is kind.  His teeth are false.

I realize suddenly that I must have looked deeply unhappy—head bowed (you can’t see I am reading from the outside), then resting my head back against the seat and slumping.  Alone in the car, aimless, after being alone in the restaurant.

I open the window a little and smile.  “Oh, thank you!” I say.  “I’m fine, really, I just have a cold and so I’m a little draggy.  But thank you so much for checking on me.  That was really kind of you!”

He lingers a moment to be sure I am not putting on a brave face.  He says, “You just seemed… worried.”

I show him my iPhone Kindle book. He smiles, relieved.  I smile back and thank him again.

He heads back to his battered old white pick-up and starts it up.  I wave and he waves and we smile again before he pulls away, off to do whatever was part of his day.

Apart from having an annoying cold, I am okay today.  But what if I had not been?  What if I had been sitting in that parking lot because I was afraid to go home, because my partner abused me?  What if I was dealing with a death or a severe illness, or fear for a child who was in trouble with drugs?  The possibilities are so limitless—and fortunately for me, I was really okay.

But if I had not been, that moment of kindness could have literally been a lifesaver.

Thank you, old man in the white pickup.  I don’t even know your name.  And you don’t know mine.  But I think I will remember you for a long time.

Sometimes, being an active bystander isn’t about intervening in a huge, scary fight or stopping a date rape cold or helping someone struck by a car.  Sometimes, being an active bystander is simply being… kind.  Simply noticing other people and then having the courage to go up to them and ask…

“Hello… are you all right?”

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3 Comments

  1. Jean

     /  January 9, 2013

    Wow! That was an amazing experience. Recently, I was rushing around a store trying pick up things needed and then head on to the next upteen-million things on my checklist that needed doing. I was tired, achy, and frustrated. I’m sure I had a scowl on my face. As I was rushing to the register, I noticed that a man was walking toward me and he smiled at me… a big light up the face sort of smile… and nodded his head in acknowledgement of myself. In that moment, I reflexively smiled back. The most amazing part was how I felt afterwards… happier, lighter, and less stressed. This bystander made a difference without ever saying a word. To him, I say, “Thank you!” You made a difference in my day!

    Reply
  2. It’s that human touch of kindness that touches are spirit in a way that nothing else can. Thanks for sharing, definitely echoes the work that we do, and the feelings of healing and hope we make sincere effort to impart to those around us.

    Reply
  3. Hey, Jean and Fariha! Exactly. Human kindness and the lingering hope it leaves behind it… it’s amazing how far a simple act of caring can extend in the life of the person touched by it.

    Reply

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