Our eyes locked.
A jolt of joy permeated through my body, straight into my soul.
You think I’m talking about the love of my life, right?
This guy was in the Safeway parking lot.
When our eyes met, I just couldn’t help breaking into a giant, warm, welcoming smile.
To be clear: I didn’t know this guy. I don’t know his parents, his neighbors, his kids. He’s just a man in a parking lot pushing his grocery cart, same as me. But I smiled at him, because I already knew we had a few things in common.
See, we’re being taught to believe that because we look, think or seem different, that we are different.
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
Thank you Ms. Angelou. I couldn’t agree more.
My work is all about helping people share their personal story. Some of my clients ask: What if I don’t have a story?
What they mean is, what if I don’t have a story of hardship?
Some people are fortunate to be born into privilege. Their parents raise them; they get a good education; they have a job.
Okay. So you may not have a story of extreme hardship. But you have a story! In fact, you have thousands of stories. Defining moments, eye-opening experiences, and yes, heart-aches too, that make up your life and define who you are.
I mentored low income students for twenty years. And I learned that despite our vast differences we all wanted the same thing. A chance to use our potential. To be seen. To be heard. To be understood.
The man in the parking lot doesn’t know my story. I can’t even guess his. But we have our common, human existence. I know it. He knew it.
And that’s why, once he realized I was just smiling with him, seeing him, appreciating his existence, he beamed back at me. It was a deep, wonderful, joyful moment of connection. It made me fly high for the rest of the day.
I know that connecting with others in kind, real ways can either make or break my day. Didn’t someone say how we spend our days is how we spend our lives?? When I see other human beings, I see experience, heart-ache and potential. And I can’t help reaching out with a look that says Hey! I see you. We’re on this journey together.
You have a story. We all do. It’s usually rooted in our childhoods. The dreams we have for ourselves. The reactions to what it was like to grow up in our families. The bonds we had, or didn’t have, with our parents.
There are many more moments throughout our lives that tell us who we are. Moments of lightheartedness and pain, kindness and kinship.
I wish for you this holiday season the chance to reflect, to find peace, to re-connect with yourself and with the people you love.
And that you give and find comfort in at least one life-affirming parking-lot smile.