Search Posts

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Connect

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?”

“Si, señor.”

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Messiness

I offered a ride to a stranger walking along the side of a rural thoroughfare at dusk. I assumed that the car parked in the grass on the opposite side of the road was hers and that it had broken down. She bent over and peered into my passenger side window to make certain I was alone and unarmed. She climbed into the back seat, thanked me for rescuing her, and gave me directions to her house. I tried my best to ignore the stench of cigarettes and booze.

As I drove, I glimpsed in the rearview mirror and noticed the stranger crying. I compassionately inquired about her upset and listened to her story. Her car did not break down. In fact, the one I saw did not belong to her or to her inebriated husband who moments before had put her life in grave danger with his reckless driving. She told me she saw no other option than to eject herself from their rapidly moving vehicle to escape his fury. He had sped away leaving her alone in the dirt.

I was surprised to hear that through this harrowing experience the woman’s main concern was that she not snag her new pair of four-dollar pantyhose. Sensing something quite bizarre about the entire situation, I proceeded to ask her several questions as we drove on.

“Do you think we should call the police from my cell phone?” I worried about our safety if the enraged husband were to be home awaiting our arrival. “Would you like me to drop you off at a friend’s instead?” But the woman insisted that she’d be fine if I would let her off two blocks away from her house, which was approximately five miles from where I picked her up. I complied.

“You’re an angel!” the stranger declared as she exited. She reached for my hand and gently squeezed it. I cautioned her not to accept further abuse, and I silently prayed for her safety.

Before driving away, I glanced at the back seat to make certain she had not left anything behind, like the purse or sweater she was carrying. Yes, she had left something behind. She had urinated in my back seat! The upholstery was saturated in a large circle. In disbelief, I watched out the window as the woman walked away from my car in urine-stained shorts and brand-new pantyhose.

Upon hearing of my Good Samaritan experience, my cynical schoolmate Kristina remarked, “That’s what happens when you try to help someone. You get pissed on!” I was pissed off and on.

Today, I laugh at that situation not because the circumstances were funny, but because of the peculiar ways in which life presents its lessons. I learned that when we get involved with others, things can get messy. But that should not deter us from opening our arms to another who needs a lift. Sometimes, we need to clean up after one another. Someday, we might be left in the dirt or in a back seat where we lose control. How can we expect an angel to pick us up when we are at the curb of life if we are not willing to do the same?

I do not know what my stopping the car meant for that woman. Perhaps mine was the only act of kindness she was offered that day. I was blessed with an opportunity to assist, and I gratefully accepted it without a stain of regret.

Be enlightened!  ~ M

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sacred Moments

It was an ordinary evening in May. With blue doggie-poop bags in hand, prepared, my friend and I took an after-dinner stroll with a canine, expected to relieve herself, in tow. We headed for the short paved trail that meanders through a small wooded grove in Beverly Hills, Florida. We began an easy conversation about how our day, the third of my visit with her, had gone and what the rest of the week might bring.

The sudden stirring of a predator in low flight caught my attention and interrupted our ramblings. Startled, I questioned, “What was that?” A quick jerk of my head to the left, then right, then upward transported me from the tree-lined path I had trodden numerous times prior to an arborous sanctuary I had never entered before. I was captivated by the scene. My heart took a picture.

Spanish moss draped overhead from an umbrella-like configuration of branches, Mother Nature’s tresses against a twilight sky. Majestic and proud grandfather oaks held high, like trophies, three owls the size of cats. Limbs reached out to me like generous arms extending gifts of natural beauty, offering freely what no wealth could purchase. Fragrant pines surrendered their therapeutic aroma, and I inhaled deeply. My friend’s steps paused. The dog stood still. The owls, appearing dignified and regal, remained reverently hushed as if they too sensed the sacredness of the moment.

I relished the spectacularity and wordlessly asked, “What do you know, oh wise owls three? What do you see as you peer down from lofty heights with knowing eyes unblinking? Teach me your message.”

The sting of a mosquito’s bite and the jingle of the dog’s collar confirmed the transience of deep pleasure. It was time to continue our walk. As we headed back toward her home, my friend admitted, “If you were not with me, I would have been looking down at dog stuff. I would have missed this beauty.” Her words made me mindful of how much splendor we inadvertently deprive ourselves of regularly.

Often, we allow routine to distract our attention away from the natural wonderment among us. We tend to be like moths to the flame of the proverbial candle we burn at both ends. We fail to look up from tending the tasks at hand. Daily, we blindly carry on unaware that there is a flitting wren whose melodic song will cease long before the din of Good Morning America. There is a rollicking child whose silent wish to romp with us will be outgrown in the blink of time’s eye. There is a setting sun whose orange flames will dissipate more quickly than those beneath the chicken we’re grilling.

It takes but a change of our perspective, a slight tilt of the head, a glance in the opposite direction, to be intrigued by beauty we had not noticed before. Take time to observe sacred moments, the fleeting ones.

Be enlightened!  ~ M

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Plunging

“Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!” the crowd below chanted as I stood ten feet above them on the high diving board at the Mineola Pool on Long Island. I had managed the twelve-step climb to that point despite my trepidation, but on the springboard I was frightfully immobile. I saw only two options. One was to take the same twelve steps backward down the ladder to where I had come from. The other was to take the plunge.

I jumped. As my trembling prepubescent body penetrated the water, an enduring life lesson penetrated my soul. Sometimes, it is necessary to “do it afraid.”

It took a few seconds for me to orient myself; this depth was unfamiliar territory. I found that when I relaxed, when I didn’t struggle or panic, I naturally rose to the surface without much effort. My head found its way toward the light where there was air to refill my lungs. I was OK.

When I returned to the Mineola Pool the following summer, as a more confident and daring adolescent, I ascended the same twelve steps. This time, I needed no cheering crowd to encourage me. Standing ten feet above them on the high diving board, I spread my arms—winglike. Then I jumped, plunging with faith into the waters that caught me.

Three decades have passed, yet the message has replayed repeatedly in my life. At times, after taking the necessary steps toward a goal, I have been paralyzed by fear, unable to move forward with a plan. Then I remember that my sweaty palms are not necessarily an indication that I should not proceed with an endeavor. That thumping sound in my ears may be more than the pounding of my nervous heart. It could be the sound of the springboard beneath my feet.

In these decisive moments, if we will only be brave enough to leap and not turn back, the benevolence of life will ensure our safety. We will find our way toward the light. We will be given breath. We will be OK.

Be enlightened!  ~ M
Every event prepares us for the next.
See here my first attempt at plunging,
many years prior to ascending
the high dive ladder.