My drivers license was about to expire. So I headed over to the BMV on a Monday morning. License renewal was the long, slow moving line. I was nervous. Did I have the right paperwork? Could I keep my anxiety at bay, using the time as a mini-mindfulness retreat?
I was doing okay, breathing and relaxing. Until the large man behind me started talking to a man in the line to our left. I felt annoyed. Just as I started to think unkind thoughts about this guy, I noticed that the man to whom he was speaking was in the line for people who needed special assistance. And extrovert behind me was making him feel seen; the other man started smiling, relaxing.
A few minutes later, my line-mate turned to a young man in the line to our right, engaging him until he got him smiling and relaxed. I overheard him say something about birthdays.
After he became quiet, I turned around and asked, “Is this your birthday?” He beamed, “Yes!” I asked, “Which one?” “57. Can you believe that?” “The Heinz birthday. You should buy some mustard.” “And some Worcestershire sauce!” We laughed, not sure how to pronounce the unpronounceable. He told me about visiting his mother. I told him how much I appreciated the kindness he brought with him to the BMV. How he had given me hope for our community. And he got very serious about the trouble being stirred up with all the meanness and division. I didn’t confess that at first his efforts had annoyed me, closed in my self-absorbed bubble of anxiety, oblivious to those around us who needed a friendly smile, a sense of welcome and belonging.
And I challenge us all to be on the lookout for signs of caring. And even to be willing to be the one who reaches out, in your own way.