Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Kindness of (Safeway) Strangers

Last week I was standing in Safeway waiting as the cashiers worked their way through lines of people.  This left me with some time for one of my favorite pastimes: people watching!  An older woman came along and offered a few “excuse me’s” as she waded through the line waiters.  She eyed me and said “you seem to be the tallest person here…could you reach something for me?”  I smiled and helped her out happily…even I had to stand on my tiptoes to reach the last jars of parmesan on the back of the top shelf.  I love it when the universe brightens my day by giving me a chance to brighten someone else’s.

Because it was busy, the customers in the next lane were only a few feet away.  I noticed a woman and her son next to me, and she seemed to be looking for ways to pass the time as well.  She sent her son on a mission to get a box of Ramen Noodles and, as he took off in a flash, muttered under her breath “and then I’ll think of something else for you to go get.”  I couldn’t help but chuckle, and she quickly realized someone had been paying attention.  She smiled sheepishly at me, and it was clear she just needed a parenting break.  I winked and said “I laugh because it’s the ghost of Christmas future for me…my daughter will be one in a few weeks, and there are already times I use tricks like that.”  She smiled back…and then I saw a light bulb go on over her head.  “That’s where I know you from!”

Phrases like that still sometimes stop me in my tracks.  I never know what words will follow.  Where will this conversation go?  Will it be someone whose password I reset back when I worked in IT?  Will it be someone who saw the article in the Casper paper last year who thinks I need to be saved from my heathen ways?  Will this person accost me or welcome me?  I haven’t yet encountered someone making hurtful comments about my daughter or my being a parent, and I’m not sure I will be able to respond with my usual grace and civility.  My mom was something of a momma grizzly bear, and I know it’s genetic.

“You spoke to my social work class last year.”  I nodded, still unsure.  Then came her excited smile, and “how is fatherhood going for you?  When you were there, she wasn’t here yet!”  We chatted for a bit and I gushed predictably about her smile, her eyes, the joys, and so on.  “Every time I see something on the news about gay rights or court cases, I think about YOU.”  My breath caught for a second time, but this time I knew why.  “I hope that the adoption process goes well for you, and that things change and get easier soon.”  I gave her a thank you, and told her that it meant a great deal to hear that.  As I left the store, I took a deep breath and smiled.  Then it was my turn to mutter under my breath: “Message received.”

Next week we have a meeting with the lawyer to get everything going in full swing.  We don’t expect problems, but until that paper is in my hand saying it’s a done deal, I will be nervous.  Scared.  Uncertain of the outcome.  Just as I was when my Safeway stranger recognized me.  I just have to do what I always try to: do what’s right, share my heart and my story, and live from a place of love.  I have to trust that it will touch hearts and that our love and commitment will be apparent to a judge as well as social work students.  

Maybe it was a message from my mom.  Maybe it was just random coincidence.  One way or another, the universe gave me exactly what I needed.  It reminded me that living my life the way I have has brought amazing people into my life, and sometimes those people are strangers.  It reminded me that the Universe really will provide, and that everything happens for a reason.  I’m SO glad that I grabbed that cheese from the top shelf.  I needed a little instant karma.  As I often tell others: “left foot, right foot…repeat as needed.” 

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