Several months ago, I mailed out a stack of kindness cards to brave volunteers. On each card was a random act of "guerilla goodness". I asked anyone who was willing to share their experience of following through on the ideas on the card, here on MommyCoddle.
This email came to me a few weeks ago from my dear friend Sarah of urban.prairie.forest.
Read and be inspired.
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quote though meant in marriage, has inspired me in community…
"We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the
planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a
marriage (or dare I say community), you're promising to care about
everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the
mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying
'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life
will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."
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This is what my boom boom! card said,
“You know that person you see everywhere? The one you smile at and say
hi to everyday on your way to work, on your run or walk, at the
grocery store? Next time, introduce yourself and find out their
name.” then, to revolutionize it, “each time you see them, say hi
using their name.”
We live in a small mountain town outside of a small beach town in
northern california. There are a couple of men I see almost every time
we drive somewhere. After reading my Boom Boom card I imagined
stopping and saying hello to the tall guy who rides his bicycle rain
or shine sitting unusually upright. He who does his laundry at the
“awesome” laundromat in town verses the “ordinary” one. Or I pictured
greeting the man who looks uncannily like Albert Einstein and seems to
walk every where he goes. I wondered if maybe we’d bump into him at
the library again and I’d have the opportunity to say, ”hello! what is
your name?” I hoped for that since it might be freaky if we pulled
over on the side of the road so I can step out & ask his name just so
the next time we drive by I can roll down the window and call out, “Hi
Albert!” (only using his real name, of course).
I found myself in the local natural foods store which we frequent. I
see the same people working every time. Usually smile and have small
talk, that’s how you roll in a small town. I realized, after reading
this Boom Boom card, I didn’t know anyone’s name which brings me to
Boom Boom card Subject number 1. Let me describe her for you since I
wasn’t A.) brave enough to ask her permission to take a photo and B.)
wasn’t stealth enough to hide at the end of an aisle & secretly take
one. Ali has brown hair, stick straight and down to her waist (though
recently she bleached it platinum blonde). She is probably
mid-twenties, likes to sit outside the back of the store on her break
for a cigarette, smiles after you smile first. She has her right brow
pierced and beautiful doe like eyes. She was checking out my
groceries when I introduced myself and asked her name. I see her
almost every visit to the grocery store. Now, I say hello and call
her by name. Interesting, she smiles before I do.
Subject number 2.
Thursday night, after a full day in town, we were making our last stop
for late night burritos after hip hop class. There before me is the
“Highway 9 Hitchhiker.” We’ve never picked him up before, but our
friend Dan used to when he would borrow our car. We could tell
because there would be the left over smell of old cigarette smoke
seeped into the seats and everytime we’d pass him on the road he would
smile, turn and prepare to walk to our pulled over car only to
discover our car wasn’t slowing down to give him a ride, I could see
it in the rear view mirror. It wasn’t for a number of weeks after Dan
moved away that Eddie would just give us the usual thumbs up and wave
as we passed by. The same signal he gives everyone that keeps on
going. So here he is in front of me at the taqueria so I ask him his
name. I tell him that he is often seen traveling between our small
towns in the valley we live. I ask him how long he has lived in this
area and he tells me over twenty years. He is full of smiles, his
eyes light up, he laughs because he thinks my husband and I wear
matching glasses. His name is Eddie Nelson and I know that now for
when our windows are down on our way through town we can call out,
“hello Eddie” as we pass him!
(no, I am still not going to pick up hitchhikers when alone with my
children, even if I know his name…)
Subject number 3.
Back in the natural food store at the check out line. A man who looks
younger than I believe he is stands working with an eternal twinkle in
his eye. We usually have more than a little small talk. He will tell
me about his other job or ask what my girls and I were up to…not
just how is your day, but more direct questions. He is very friendly,
permeates a sort of peace, calm and light. It’s time to grab the bag
and walk out so I quickly introduce myself & ask him his name. Off we
go… A few days later I pop in to grab some ice cream for my girls.
It’s become a Friday tradition with a few friends. One of the other
momma’s chooses a different check out line and I joke that it’s a
race. In my slightly competitive nature my energy is quick and I’m
glancing over at my friend. I thanked ________* for checking us out
and took the ice cream to leave. He said, “have a great day Sarah!” I
stopped turned around and smiled. It felt so nice to be seen, to be
remembered, to be known. That feeling is something I want to return.
Though his name had slipped my mind at the time, thankfully he gave
his business card to my husband so I can pull a Nancy Drew and return
the kindness he showed me.
. . . . . . . . . .
Since arbitrarily becoming subject number three myself, I have been
even more determined to return the favor of seeing others and using
their name. David* who was intended to be subject number three
consistently uses my name. I actually thanked him and told him about
this little project. He smiled and with such gratitude thanked me
back for sharing that with him. I have seen Eddie and Ali each week
since (except when we were out of town) and have had ample opportunity
to use their names and say hello. Just last week Eddie posed for a
photo outside the taqueria where we met. I've become sweet friends
with some of the families at dance and look forward to the two hours
of waiting because now it's not just waiting, it's catching up. We
have yet to meet upright sitting bicycle man or Albert Einstien, but
are prepared for a greeting for when that time arrives.
Say hello, ask people their names, see & be seen.
You might be surprised but most importantly,
everybody needs a witness.
9 comments on “Everybody needs a witness”
Such a great story… It reminds me of something I gave great thought to during taking the NowYou workshop I took part in over the summer, and that is that everyone wants to be seem and heard….. Isn’t it neat, Molly, to see how this keeps rippling??
that’s “seen” and heard… ahem. (typing on the ipad does not work for me!)
This is beautiful. Should have jumped on the chance when you offered it 🙁
what an awesome story, so inspiring. i am german, and live in a big city. i wonder if this would be possible here too and hope i’ll be brave enough to try… it certainly makes a difference in our days, i’m sure!
Wow, I had to do a double take when I saw this photo of my local taqueria! I prefer to think of that guy as the actual benign ghost of Albert Einstein, endlessly pacing the hwy 9 corridor trying to solve the mysteries of the universe. But it would be nice to know his real name and story too 😉
! ! ! an slv local! you know the albert of whom i speak and sure then eddie! i wonder if our paths have crossed . . . ? ? ?
I love this story. I love trying to remember and then use people’s names in these kinds of settings, although, I must admit I do it more for my own personal fun than to be kind. That’s okay, right? My favorite is to remember the name of people who assist me on the phone when I call the doctor’s office, the phone company, the bank, and even telemarketers. It almost always gets a small laugh when i say, “Have a great day Barbara” at the end of the call. Anything for a laugh! Great work Sarah.