Today has been a day of self-discovery and adventure for me, starting with a walk with my dogs, working out on the treadmill, and writing again. For weeks, perhaps months, I have battled with self-doubt that I could ever write again. Yes, I’ve posted on my blog, but I kept allowing negative vibes to creep inside. Today is a different day. After writing a blog post, I recognized that the words were beginning to creep back inside me.
This led me to thinking — something I do lots of times. In my lifetime I have always been the type of personality to speak to strangers. Trust me…it drives my husband crazy. He simply cannot understand how I can see someone on the streets and say, ‘Hello,’ with a smile on my face. He’s told me many times that one day someone was going to take advantage of me because of my friendly personality. Oh well. It hasn’t changed me! Still, I speak to strangers everywhere…on the street corners…at the mall…while shopping at the grocery store, and other scenarios. Most people will nod, or say hello, but continue to move on.
Many years ago I took a trip with ten women. I was the youngest in the group. When we arrived in San Francisco, a man on the street corner ran me down. He tapped me on the shoulder. I spun around. “Hello, Sir. Can I help you?”
“I think I should warn you,” he said. He was dressed in a faded plaid shirt, tattered jeans, old shoes. “You should be careful who you speak to along the streets of San Francisco. Someone might hurt you. People don’t speak to you here.”
I smiled. Shook his hand and thanked him. He walked away. Meanwhile, I continued to say hello to people along the busy streets. I was confident. Happy to be in San Francisco!
Crossing the street, I noticed an older woman. She reminded me of my grandmother, deceased many years prior. Dressed in a crinkled dress with gold buttons, her hair knotted into a bun, pearl earrings in her ears, I smiled at her and said, “Hello.”
She stopped. Smiled and I continued to walk along the sidewalk, headed to a drug store. I needed hair spray and a few toiletries. Little did I know the woman was following me. I reached for the door of the drug store. Holding the door for others to enter, the woman approached me.
“Hello,” she said. “You spoke to me! You said hello. No one ever speaks to me and I wanted to thank you.”
I smiled. “You’re welcome, Ma’am!”
“You must be from the South. People here…in San Francisco…we don’t talk and it’s nice to have someone just say hello to me.”
I invited her for a cup of coffee. “My treat,” I said.
Over coffee Ruth told me about her life. Her husband died years ago. Her children were grown. “They’re so busy with their lives they don’t have time for an old lady such as me.”
“You’re lonely,” I said, reaching to touch her hand.
“Yes, I suppose you could say so. I live downtown in a retirement village and no one speaks. No one.”
“I did,” I said.
“You made my day, today. I’ve felt so alone that I wanted to die. I’ve been praying that God would take me because no one cared, and then, out of the blue…you spoke to me.”
Although my day had been planned, I chose to change my plans on that day. I walked Ruth back to her apartment and I hugged her when we parted. From time to time I’ve thought about her, but we did not keep in touch. I’ve never forgotten how touched she was that a complete stranger spoke to her at a time when she needed a friend.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I still speak, to total strangers. My dad taught me the habit, telling me that you never know when a simple hello can brighten someone’s day. Just like it did with Ruth! I lost my dad in 1999 after a brutal battle with cancer. Still, he is inside my heart and I fill his presence every day.
“Hello,” I say with a smile.
Today has been a day of self-discovery — a day I’ve actually found the words to write again after a long absence. Perhaps the walking helped me today, or maybe it was the discovery that life must continue, and we must make the efforts to enjoy every breath we are blessed to share with life and those we love. “Hello…How are you today?”