“I like your hair.” The air was chilly and I was in a hurry to get my groceries. “I really like your hair.” I look around to see who was talking. A couple of cars from me in the parking lot was a diminutive lady with short, white hair and she was looking straight at me. I point to myself as a way of asking if she was talking to me. She shook her head yes.
“Why, thank you,” I responded and started to continue on my way to the store. After all, I had a long list of items on my “to do” list that I needed to get accomplished and this was only the first stop. The stranger wanted to stay engaged in conversation, though. “What salon do you go to?” she asked. I told her, all the while thinking that I need to go because I have so much to do. Our conversation, however, continued and she started talking about her family, her living situation, how well she was doing health-wise. Gradually, I let go of my own immediate need (which was actually a want), and really started to listen to this kind woman whose only apparent need at the moment was to connect with someone. As I realized that she was probably lonely, I relaxed and focused on her, giving her my full attention. After twenty minutes or so of exchanging pleasantries, we parted company.
I thought about her the rest of the day and others like her who might be lonely despite being amongst people. How many times had I brushed someone off or walked by them without really looking at them when, if I had slowed down and taken a moment, I could have possibly made a difference in their day? People need to stay connected with other people, they need to be heard and appreciated. Time. Attention. Conversation. A smile. What small things to give.
Our paths have never crossed again, but I will always remember the elderly lady that talked with me in the parking lot. She is a constant reminder to slow down and connect with those around you in some way. That is much more important than finishing any to-do list.