“Thank you for talking to me!” His words were surprising, direct and intentional. Yet they were woven warm with all of the enchantment and depth that makes a human being unlike anything else in all of existence. His words were heavy and labored, being nearly lost in his thick Hispanic accent. His smile lit a face deeply etched by the lines of age that had randomly been sketched across a pallet of time and hardship. Indeed, his face was a mosaic of pain and loneliness that was instantly redrawn by nothing more than a handful of words tucked into a few brief moments, all of which was handed to him by a complete stranger. “Thank you for talking to me!”
This invisible man, whose name I never thought to ask, laboriously checked cars out of a sprawling rental lot at a large and bustling international airport. Menial, mundane and entirely lost in the ever-shifting exodus of people traveling to and from places far and wide, he checked out cars one at a time, day after day in this asphalt desert. In the end, his life will not be remembered by many. When he is gone no one where ask where he went or what became of him as he will be easily replaced by someone else who will perform the same menial and mundane task for people who are too busy traveling to places far and wide to pay any attention. “Thank you for talking to me!” he said with a robustness that set me back.
Acknowledging Our Humanity Only Takes One Small Connection
It all started very simply, as most of those magically authentic encounters with another human being always seem to start. It all started because I asked him about his watch. In the frequently ignored alliance of our shared humanity it really takes very little to connect with another. Even something as small as a watch will suffice. It was rather unique and quite attractive, so I complimented him on his watch and offhandedly asked him where he got it. Within a moment he transformed from a stoic parking lot attendant standing in an asphalt desert to a fascinating human being who suddenly looked a whole lot like me.
Running Humanity Underfoot
Sometimes I wonder if we’ve become inhuman in our view of humanity. It seems that we’ve lost something very precious as we hurriedly rush to places far and wide in this hectic journey that we’re all on. We’ve let humanity become a commodity that serves us along the way, rather than an asset that enriches our journey. Too often we’ve robbed others of the very humanity that we demand that they acknowledge in us.
Thank You for Talking to Me
Maybe we should stop, acknowledge the humanity of those that we meet, and add something to their humanity in the ‘meeting.’ In the disheveled rush and baffling mayhem of living out our lives we need to hear them say, “thank you for talking to me” because we talked to them. When our own stress is crushing us and we’ve given everything that we have to whoever’s come along to take it from us, we need to hear them say, “thank you for talking to me.” When we’ve had more than our fill of people and we’re starving for solitude, we need to hear them say, “thank you for talking to me.” When it would have made a whole lot more sense and been a whole lot more convenient simply to pass them by, we still need to hear them say, “thank you for talking to me.”
Thank You …
So maybe it’s high time to start talking. Maybe we’re way overdue around the task of engaging our fellowman simply because he or she is our fellowman. Maybe it’s time to turn our attention away from the egotistical mirror of self and look into a face other than our own. Maybe it’s time to realize that our greatest contributions are not the monuments that we construct, but the lives that we change because we took the time to talk to them and thereby add to the monument which is them. Maybe it’s time to change the world one life at a time. Maybe it’s time to talk.
October 10, 2014