A young woman in a revealing sundress swooped down as she walked past the stroller and started talking to Liam in a singsong voice, “oh babeee, don’t cry, nothing to be sad about, babeee”. He tucked his chin into his shoulder and rolled his eyes up to me, smiling. Glistening tears still set on his cheeks, rosy from the brisk walk here. I was marveling at how a stranger can calm your baby when he is bored and frustrated with you, stupid parent, and thinking that I needed to figure out the protocol of how to ask young women to come over and play with my son for $10 an hour. She stood up to walk away and the man standing behind me said, “Beautiful baby, what’s his name?” I was still looking at Liam, thinking about how picking up babysitters reminded me of a Seinfeld episode. “How old is he?” the man continued, followed by, “So beautiful, you’re doing a really good job, you can tell.” This is turning into a lovely day, such nice interactions with strangers. So unlike yesterday when I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop who, as far as I could tell, just wanted to show off his mustache. The man waiting to order his coffee stretched out his hand and introduced himself, “I’m Joe, what’s your name?” As soon as I reached out to take his hand I noticed how scruffy he was and how weathered his fingertips were. Oh my, as I glanced down at the duffle bag at his feet, a sudden shift in the kind of conversation I was having. The barista gave me a look and called to the guy, “you want another refill?” in a tone that said hurry up and outta here. I finished shaking his hand and told him my name. He smiled, head down a bit, “Thank you for letting me say hello to you.” He took his refill and headed for the door.
How easy it is to engage in the simplest acts of connection; yet so often we let our initial perceptions of people interfere with an opportunity to interact. I forget that an off-the-cuff moment for me might be meaningful to someone else. We all want simple interactions with strangers, to be seen by other people. And how would it feel if people didn’t let you say hello to them? As I was pondering this reality, and vowing to be better about slowing down to see the people who enter my life every day, I saw this message spray painted on the street:
So easy really.