I’m in line at the grocery store, and as I put my items on the belt, I notice the man in front of me glancing back at them. I look up and catch his eye.
“I drink a ton of that stuff,” he says, pointing to a bottle of soda.
“Yeah,” I reply. “It’s certainly not the best choice, I guess.”
“Maybe, but it’s better than what I used to drink,” he says with a bit of pride and a touch of shame.
“Oh?” I gently inquire.
“Yup, after 34 years of drinking way too much booze, I quit, cold turkey.”
“Wow. Good for you! Not an easy thing to do, I bet.”
“No, it sure wasn’t, but after ruining one too many relationships in my life, I said, ‘No more,’ and just stopped. Haven’t touched a drop since.”
“You must be incredibly proud of yourself,” I say, as I put my hand on his arm. “It takes a strong person to make that kind of change.”
He smirks a bit sheepishly. “Well, I found myself a great group of people who help keep me on the straight and narrow, and I’m a better man for it. I think my kids would say the same.”
He wraps up his transaction and takes his bags.
“You have a great night,” he says as he walks away.
“You, too,” I reply with a smile and a nod.
As I buy my groceries, both the cashier and I are smiling and positive energy is flowing all around us. This moment feels so good.
I head out with my bags, and when I get to my car, the man I was talking to is unlocking his car, which is parked right across from mine. He gives a big smile and an enthusiastic wave. I smile and wave back.
As I drive the short distance home, I feel so connected to that man, and I find myself smiling as I feel our connection radiate to other drivers and people walking on the street.
This is where peace begins, I believe. When we see each other as the beautiful, complex human beings we are and not solely as our religion, skin color, sexual orientation, gender, or political affiliation, we’re able to be with each other in a whole different way — a way that allows us to access love and compassion.
We fill our lives with such busyness that we’ve become myopic in our world view. We struggle to see beyond the ends of our noses and, as such, have become almost oblivious to those around us. It’s this disconnect that’s at the root of much of the turmoil these days.
I know many are feeling a bit helpless and sometimes hopeless with the state of affairs, wondering what you can do. Start small. You needn’t toss a huge boulder in the ocean. A small pebble can create a ripple that travels far and wide.
So this week, I challenge you to make an effort to connect with a stranger. Lift your head up from your phone, make small talk, offer a smile, or simply say “Good morning.” This intentional connection is just what this crazy world needs.
Are you in?