There are so many cliché titles that I could’ve given this blog post. Be kind to one another like Ellen DeGeneres says. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
I was just at Fresh Market staring down a panini, thinking man did that look better than the lunch I had planned back home. An older gentleman in front of me had just ordered an Italian panini for himself so I asked him if he’d ever tried it before. He said he always ordered Italian sandwiches at places like that so he figured Italian was the best option for him here at Fresh Market, but he’d never tried one there before today. I told him that I order Italian sandwiches too so I thought I would give it a shot today as well. He then asked me if he could share a quick poem with me. It was kind of a strange request, but why not? I could’ve easily been the typical 30 year old standing there in line with my phone in my face checking social media. Or I could be someone who actually had a conversation with another human being, an old fashioned conversation where you speak to someone out loud face to face. For some reason, I could tell he just wanted to have a conversation.
He shared with me this poem from memory which was quite impressive. He told me a little bit about the history of the poem. And then he told the guy at the counter to cut his panini into thirds – one third for him, one third for his wife, and one third for me.
I of course told him he really didn’t have to do that, but he insisted because he wanted to do something nice for me for being so kind to him. That really struck me as both strange and familiar at the same time. I think sometimes we’re so jaded by the current state of society, that we start to believe that kindness doesn’t exist anymore. I remember so well how my grandma used to thank me for spending time with her and taking her places. She was always grateful that a young person like me would want to spend time with an old person like her. I think the familiarity of that is what drew me to the conversation with this older man to begin with. He told me about one other poem that I think I’ll look up when I get home. When the panini was ready, he handed me my third and I thanked him for it. He asked me how old I thought he was and before I could give a guess, he told me he was 81.5. Just like that. Eighty-one point five years old.
We parted ways and I began to eat my panini as I walked through the rest of the store. I checked out with my items and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man and his wife sitting at the front of the store eating there share of the panini. I walked over to him and thanked him one more time for the panini. He wanted to introduce me to his wife Nancy and excitedly told me that they would be married 56 years this December. We had another minute or so of conversation, and then I left to go home.
Little episodes like that are very good reminders for me to be present and available to simply be nice to people. I could have not struck up a conversation and it wouldn’t have mattered, it’s not like that would’ve been rude. But by taking a moment to talk to this man, it just made both of our days a little bit better. Be nice! It would truly make the world a bit brighter!