Off the Line: Inadvertently touching others

I struggle when I write this column. I tiptoe between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

You know, I struggle sometimes. Specifically, I struggle when I write this column. I tiptoe between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I worry that our readers are legions of young people, raising children, facing the same debts, demons and angst that my generation did and yet, not able to connect with me because I am a 62-year-old woman who couldn’t possibly connect with them or understand what it means to be 20 or 30-something and worrying about their tomorrows.

In the odd moments of the ‘60s and old school clarity I recognize that while we thought we were the best, the smartest, and the most enlightened, we certainly weren’t right. All you have to do is look at all those ‘60s lifestyle pushers and you will see that they gave up their ideals for comfort and security. In short, they sold out.

They are sitting in their rocking chairs, living on their pensions, and have largely forgotten their hippie conviction. Strike me dead that I have become my parents’ generation. I remember being the tender age of what? Fourteen? and hearing “don’t trust anyone over 30.” Oh yes!

Those wretched 30-year-old people! Everyone knew they weren’t to be trusted. Now I am twice as old and have come to the place in my life and am looking back at my failures and successes — assessing my life, if you will.

As many of you know, I am struggling with a health issue. I think about what I have contributed to those around me and my impact on the world, generally. Of course I realize I am not the Good Lord resurrected, but I do, finally, understand that every action I have impacts another.

Sometimes we never know when or if we touch someone during our lifetime. We go about our lives doing our daily things and if we hear that we made a difference in someone’s life then that’s a bonus. But generally, that seldom happens.

The other day I was lucky enough to connect with someone from 11 years ago. She knew me, but I didn’t know her. She told me her story of meeting me.

Evidently she was walking her dog, a cocker spaniel, as I was driving by. Having had three American cocker spaniels I apparently passed by her in my car, slowed down, turned back around to where I saw her and stopped and spoke to her about my infatuation with cocker spaniels.

Quite honestly, I don’t remember that meeting. I can also emphatically say that doing such a thing really goes against my habits and nature. If you ask anyone who knows me he or she will tell you that is just something I don’t do.

She remembers though; quite clearly right down to the exact date. According to her, her husband had recently passed away. Because he was sick for a long time, she had time to reconcile his impending passing in her head.

What she failed to reconcile, however, was the feeling she had of being half of one, now alone. Conversations that came from her friends were careful and considerate. After all, she was the grieving widow. She was a wife, a mother and now a widow, but never single and alone. She felt isolated, alone and unsure as to her worth or role in life.

She told me that the day we met was the first day she finally started to live again. Someone, a total stranger, who did not know her story, treated her with respect, dignity and evidently, kindness. She told me that was the day her life turned around and she could see the light beyond the dark clouds.

When she told me that story I was thunderstruck and oh so very humbled. Had I really made that sort of difference in someone’s life? Apparently so. What really got me though, was the consideration that just by the nature of things I likely touched other people’s lives as well.

Then it struck me, as I was basking in the glow of this patting myself on the back, that if I touched someone in that way was it possible that unknowingly I also touched others in a not-so-nice way? Yes, that was just as likely. That thought was quite sobering.

That encounter with the lady from 11 years back will always stick with me and now, when I interact with others I hope that I consider that we are not unlike the stone thrown in the water. All of us exude that ripple. I just hope that my ripple washes those around me in comfort and care.

 

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