The Stranger We All Know

There is a man who sits outside the deli near my office. Most days he’s there when I arrive in the morning, and there when I go home at the end of the day. Sometimes I’ll go days at a time without seeing him and then he’ll appear again as though he hasn’t been away. He appears to be in his 50s or maybe early 60s. Aside from an injured leg he seems to be in good health.

What I notice most of all is his smile. He has a warm smile and always says kind things to the people who walk by. Sometimes he’ll ask for money to buy a sandwich but most days he only says a simple “good morning sweetheart”, or “have a great day today sir”. Occasionally there are days he says nothing at all.

When I walk by at lunch time he is typically engaged in a lively conversation with a handful of men and women in business suits. They talk as though they have known each other for years. Maybe they have. The suits ask him how he’s doing. They chat about the weather, his grand kids, sports, and any other topic that seems to pop into mind. I’ve seen people bring him food or a coffee and there is a small gaggle of ladies that drop off clean clothing for him when the seasons change. Usually though, people simply stop to hug him close and chat with him.

I’ve often wondered why he sits out there all day. Even in the snow or rain. Hottest days of summer and many of the coldest winter days too. After a few years of watching him interact with the suits, I finally decided to sit down and ask him more about his life. He smiled at me and immediately opened up.

He told me about his family – mostly his grand kids. They kept him busy but he was happy for the time he was able to spend with them. He wished he could see them more often but was thankful for the time they did get together. He told me he had a bum leg but he was connected with a doctor and a therapist who were doing what they could to help him out. He was hoping to avoid surgery.

He also told me he was looking for a place to live but he was having trouble proving his identity. Turns out getting a new social security card and photo ID is pretty difficult when you don’t have a place of employment or a primary residence… and it’s hard to get a primary residence when you don’t have a social security or photo ID. He sighed and said he was working with a great agency but there is so much red tape in the government. It makes things take a long time. He said he knew things would work out and thanked me for the conversation. He told me to have a wonderful day.

Now when I see him his smile is a bit warmer and he will even wave if I’m in the middle of a conversation so as not to interrupt. It’s been years since he’s asked me for money. Instead we share pleasantries as I pass by. When he’s gone for a few days I find myself worrying if he’s okay. A man I don’t even know.

You know the curious thing? I’m not the only one. I  see people walking by staring at the empty spot on the bench where he normally sits. The mood is quieter. His presence brings a more cheerful mood. Lighter, happier conversations. It affects even those people whom I’ve never seen interact with him. He just has this infectious warmth. It really is quite amazing to watch.

I don’t know his whole story but its clear there is a great sadness he doesn’t talk about. How can a man who has seen such sadness be such a bright light for dozens of strangers who cross his path every day? Does he realize how they worry about him when he’s gone? I wish he could see that. I wish he could see their smiles as they turn the corner after chatting with him. I wish I could be more like this man. More grateful, more thankful, and more loving. The type of person who people can’t wait to see every morning. The kind of person who takes down those defensive walls and allows for our shared humanity to shine through.

I’ll work on that.

With Love, Mia


Nov. 28: Today I am thankful for people who remind me of what a great world this really is.

 

 

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Stores? I Think You Mean Outdoors

I was looking back at my Black Friday post from last year and I’m sorry to say it looks like Black Friday once again buckled to the peer pressure. This year, a lot of stores opened early on Thanksgiving Day or just stayed open all day. Ew.

While Tony and I do enjoy having and buying nice things, we are not terribly materialistic. You’re far more likely to find us driving down some back road than racing down the store aisles. So, as you can imagine, Black Friday is not really an exciting day for us. In fact, the raging consumerism really turns us off. We will make the occasional Black Friday purchase if something on our wait-list comes up for sale, but generally it’s just another day at work doing the normal thing.

This year, however, we played things a little differently. To celebrate Black Friday I decided to take a page out of REI’s book and #OptOutside. We skipped the stores (and the office) and took to the great outdoors. Thankfully our area was experiencing some  unseasonably warm weather so it didn’t take too much convincing to get Tony to come along too.

We didn’t come home with any hard fought “spoils of war” from the store shelves. Nothing to play with, wear, or set down in our home. Instead we enjoyed the fresh air, sounds of wildlife, a pale autumn sun, and a few good laughs. Oh, we did come home with a couple of photos though. They can be seen here and here.

I’m so glad there are companies like REI. I hope their employees spent the day finding their zen, whatever that may mean for them. I know I did.

With Love, Mia


Nov 27: Today I am thankful for companies who value something other than profit (even if it is just for one day).

 

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving here in the US.

A day I sometimes call smallpox day. I know, it’s not very funny. It’s my tongue in cheek way of reminding people about the importance of remembering the history between the Native Americans and the pilgrims. Just as with any other two groups of peoples there are dark, violent stories as well as heart warming tales of a shared humanity.

Here in the US we don’t choose to celebrate the death and destruction (thank goodness). That doesn’t mean, though, that we should ignore it. Great atrocities were committed on this land and we are still seeing their affects in our country today. That makes me sad but I’m glad not all Native American tribes were destroyed.

I’m also glad that we have a day in our country where we celebrate thankfulness and brotherhood, which is the way I prefer to look at Thanksgiving. A day where we get together with our loved ones, and/or those who need more love. A day to celebrate and share our bountiful blessings. Things we’ve worked hard for, and things we are lucky to have.

This year, to celebrate Thanksgiving, Tony and I spent time together enjoying laughs and eating good food. We wore clean, warm clothing and enjoyed the comforts of our home. We also reached out to friends, co-workers, and extended family members. Small conversations to thank them for being a part of our lives; lives we are very thankful to have.

In addition to that, we avoided stores as our small way of saying thank you to the various folks in the service industry who support our way of living. Hopefully they were able to spend time with their loved ones and enjoy the food, homes, and laughter they work so hard to keep.

As the sun was setting on our Thanksgiving we hopped inTony’s car and drove off into the sunset. We drove out to the country side as the painted sunset faded into darkness. We listened to deep and powerful music and appreciated the beauty of the world around us. When the last of the light had finally faded away we turned around and drove back towards the orange glow of the rising full moon.

I can’t even begin to explain how thankful I am for all that we have. We have our health, our loved ones, and, most of all, we still have each other.

I hope everyone was able to find comfort in today. No matter how dark things get there is always something to be thankful for. I hope everyone else was able to find and celebrate those things. Treasure them and remember them. Let them carry you forward and keep you warm through the darkness of winter.

Wishing you all the best, Mia


Nov 26: Today I am thankful for being alive. No matter how hard things seem, I will try to remind myself of just how lucky I really am. I have my body, my heart, and an amazing world filled with other beautiful living creatures.

 

 

When I was a little kid my dad always used to mow the lawn. I remember watching him from the other side of the window or screen door. He would roll this rickety lawnmower out from the garage and roll it half-way down the driveway. I’d dart from room to room to watch him walk down the drive way.

At first I’d open the door to the garage just a crack and peek out as he moved things out of the way. If he saw me he’d ask me to hit the garage door opener. I loved that job! For a long time he’d have to walk over and pick me up to reach the button, but he still let me do it. 🙂

As he rolled the lawn mower out I’d shut the door and hop to the side door in the family room. I’d pull the curtain aside and peak out at him. When he took a few more steps I’d run out of the family room and slide across the kitchen tile. I’d sneak behind the microwave cart and peer out the small kitchen window. In a few more steps he’d be out of view again.

From there I’d back out from behind the cart and run into the dining room. I’d flip behind the thick floor length curtains and push my face against the window, trying not to bump into the air conditioner. Sometimes he’d stop the lawnmower right in view but other times he’d roll it just a little further to get it even with the front yard.

On days that he kept walking I’d steer around the air conditioner and run a lap around the dining room table. I’d swing open the front door and peer through our screen door, flicking the latch open and shut. Sometimes I could see him just around the edge of our large barberry bush but once in a while I’d sneak out on the front stoop and gently close the screen door behind me so he wouldn’t hear.

My favorite part was next!  My dad’s lawnmower had been with us for a long time and for as long as I can remember had been picky about starting. My dad would bend over and grab hold of the starter cord. His long black ponytail would flop over the shoulder of his bright pink t-shirt. He’d give a sharp tug and bring the cord above his shoulder. The mower would shudder and seize. Once, twice, sometimes a third time. Then the familiar whir of the lawnmower giving in. My day would pull a rag from his back pants pocket and wipe his forehead. He’d stuff the rag back in his pocket and push the lawn mower into the grass.

I would spend the next couple hours watching him methodically move through the front, side, and back yards. Every once in a while I’d hop from my perch and tear through the house as he disappeared around the corner. I’d climb up into the next window trying to peak through the curtains to find him. I could watch for hours. And I did.

I wonder if he knew how much I adored him. Did he know I was watching the whole time? Did he know I refused to play with  my sister and refused to help my mom with chores because “please I want to watch daddy”? If he knew he did a good job of acting like he didn’t. I thought I was being sneaky and he let me have that.

I’m not sure why but that’s something I’ll always remember about my dad. He seemed like the biggest, best person in the world. So smart, strong, and amazing as he.. mowed the lawn? Haha, I don’t know why but that’s what I thought when I was little. I wanted to grow up and be just like him with my own lawnmower.

One day I hope I can figure out how to tell him how much those moments meant to me. How much he still means to me. Hopefully he’ll understand.

With Love, Mia


Nov 25: Today I am thankful for living in a safe neighborhood.

Potlucky

I’ve had a difficult year at work with an unpleasant and abusive co-worker. That year was only a step in a series of unfortunate events. In October I was traded to a new team. Another step down this crazy path they were pushing me down. The situation at work is still very unpleasant and pushing my limits of zen but my new teammates?

Simply amazing.

They are the most caring people I’ve met in a long time and I wish I had found them sooner. I’m still struggling to work through some of the issues at work, but with them, I have never felt more welcomed and appreciated.

Today we had a potluck lunch to celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m odd and uncomfortable at those events but I enjoyed myself. We shared food, family stories, work stories, it was just a pleasant time all around. And oh my gosh, the delicious food. MMMMMmmmm.

As they told their stories and laughed together I rested my head against the back of the conference room chair and smiled, taking it all in. I didn’t have to be guarded, there was no motive behind their kindness. It was heart-felt and real. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was part of a team again. For however briefly, this was my new team now. And they were wonderful.

With Love, Mia


Nov 24: Today I am thankful for warm hearts and a shared table.

Nuh-uh

Today the world thought it was winter.
I whole-heartedly disagreed.
It took three layers
but I emerged victorious.

Seriously thought outside place. It’s not winter time yet. Please give me just a few more precious weeks with my spring jacket.

With Love, Mia

PS. Plz tell summer I miss it. 😦


Nov 23: Today I am thankful we live above a grocery store. I’m bringing a potluck dish to work on Tuesday and didn’t have travel dish to put it in or serving utensils. Problem solved!

Two Haiku

Tonight seems like a wonderful night for fun stories in brief.

What happened today?
Things really got out of hand.
Now I’m in Scotland.

 

Next week I hope to
find myself in a large room
chock full of puppies.

I like to make up stories like these (admittedly not usually 575 form) and then fill in the rest of the details. What curious lives these other people lead.

 

With Love, Mia

 


Nov 22: Today I am thankful for my shoes. Something so small that has such a large impact. A little piece of comfort I can take everywhere with me.