While running this afternoon, I saw a man, probably in his early seventies, walking in his yard. He had some obvious mobility limitations and, truth be told, had quite a large belly. He was carrying a plant in a hanging basket to the most sunlit part of his yard, and I thought, how beautiful. If you live in southeastern PA, you know it’s been raining nonstop for four consecutive days, and the sun hasn’t poked through the clouds once. And here’s this guy with physical limitations, caring for a plant that won’t survive beyond the first frost, for what other reason than to be of service to another living thing.
I don’t know this person from anything, and I don’t know how he’ll vote in the upcoming midterm elections. If I were to stereotype the man, I’d probably guess we’re not on the same side of the political spectrum. But I know that if he can empathize with petunias that have been devoid of sunlight for a handful of days and will take on discomfort to care for them, then he has good at his core and cares about life. In the grand scheme of things, isn’t that about all that matters?
I wish we, as a society, could see more of each other in these small moments. As I mentioned, I saw this man because I was on a run-not in a car or online. We were both out in the neighborhood, each existing in our own way. And I think we need more of this. Dog walkers, human walkers, bikers, runners, skaters, gardeners, gossipers…just people back out there on the porches, in the yards, and on the streets getting to know each other again.
You know, many people quickly remind us that it’s not in our best interest to compare ourselves to the Facebook or Instagram highlight reels we see from family, friends, and strangers. And that’s good advice. But it’s also fair to not judge people from the worst of them we see online, as hard as it may be. I have unfollowed people to protect my mental health, but I do my best to not let that change how I treat people in real life.
So, if you’re reading this, I have a request. Can you find a way that suits you to move around your community in a non-motorized fashion? Can you do that for at least thirty minutes? The bonus is to do it without headphones or being on the phone. The main point is to slow down and be as present as possible in a place you frequent or where you live and to just see what comes up for you.
Thanks for reading, and if you entertained my request, double thanks.