I sat at the dining room table engrossed in watching an online seminar when a succession of raps of the door knocker startled me with a persistent clang. “Who is it?” I bellowed, delighted by the prospect of a visitor, yet agitated by the interruption of my concentration.
With rolling r’s and a heavy Hispanic accent, “Exterminator,” a voice called back.
Gathering patience, I took a deep breath before I rose to bid the man enter. I forced a smile as I swung open the door and declared, “I’m glad you’re here. I saw two live ants and one palmetto bug on its back since you were here last.”
“Oh, jew deed?”
A discussion ensued about my fear of bugs. I abhor insects in the home, even a Florida home in springtime. He called it my “fōbya” and told me that his was of “cheeken.” I did not admit that I found that a bit odd.
“You’re afraid of chicken? Really? You mean you don’t like to eat it? No le gusta comer?”
Grateful for a chance to exercise my Spanish and intrigued to hear his explanation, I lowered the volume of the video I had been watching. In Spanglish, I listened to the man’s story.
When he was three years old and visiting his grandparents’ farm in Spain, his older cousins locked him inside a crowded enclosed chicken coop. He was trapped in there from day until dusk. He could hear his grandma beckoning, “Eddie, ¿dónde estás?” Paralyzed by fear, Eddie did not respond. He did not want to further upset the furious fowls with loud shouts. Hour after hour, the chickens pecked at little Eddie in the dark. It was not until he summoned the courage to expose his location that he was rescued to safety. What began as an innocent prank turned into a daylong nightmare and a lifelong angst.
Saddened by his experience and touched by his sharing, I offered the still-tormented man a glass of cold water. “¿Quieres agua?” He gratefully accepted and drank it quickly after he finished chemically treating my apartment. Between his gulps, we talked some more. He seemed at ease now. I learned that he earned a degree in entomology from the same university I had attended. We discussed the value of education and my recent graduation. He spoke proudly about his extermination business being family-owned and operated. I told him of my attempt at freelancing. He commented that my Spanish pronunciation is “muy buena” even if my foreign vocabulary is lacking. I agreed with him about my need of practice.
Eddie handed me the empty glass and picked up his equipment readying himself to leave. I noticed a look of contentment on his face. I shook his hand cordially, thanked him for his service, and closed the door behind him with warmth of heart.
I suspect our brief encounter was as delightful for Eddie as it was for me. I wonder how many other clients take time to express interest in him, his story, or his endeavors. How many attempt to understand his language or try to communicate with him on a heart level? Eddie and I found common ground on which to stroll for a few moments. We connected, and both benefitted.
Connection with others is so important to our overall well-being. Recognition and validation are key. How often do we take time to truly listen to people? Do we care to learn their stories? Are we willing to share our own? Or would we rather cower in a corner and ignore love’s call?
Until we summon the courage to expose our vulnerabilities, we remain in lonely isolation being pecked at by that which we fear—rejection, ridicule, misunderstanding. Our lists are long. When we allow an interruption of our activities and we take time to connect with another, we foster love. And in love, there is no fear. In love, we find acceptance and understanding. In love, we heal. Who knows? Maybe after sharing that story, Eddie’s fear dissipated. Maybe today he eats drumsticks.
What I do know is that if an exterminator’s knock on the door on an ordinary afternoon could lead me to such illumination, there is no telling what miracles wait if we but listen, share, and connect.
Be enlightened! ~ M