We were driving down the winding, country road, my mother and I, on our way home from the store. The air conditioning was blasting on full, sending welcomed chilly surges to my otherwise sweltering body. It was about 95 degrees outside, but my pregnant body made it feel like it was 110.
It was summer in Wisconsin, and though it was hot, I was happy to be spending time at one of my favorite places in the entire world, my family’s summer home. I was singing along to some pop hit on the radio when I saw him.
“What’s he doing?” I asked my mom. I squinted to see more clearly as the man walked on the shoulder of the road up ahead. My mom slowed the car as we passed him, and I instantly told her to turn the car around.
Embracing the little moments
I have always had a soft spot in my soul for the elderly; I have ever since I was a little girl. When we saw this old man in a bright orange vest and a cane hobbling downhill on the main road, knowing the great uphill climb he had ahead of him just around the corner, I knew there was no option but to stop and see where he was headed.
After a few fleeting nervous questions of, “what if he has a ride meeting him? What if he doesn’t want help? What if he’s a secret serial killer?” (you know, standard questions), my mom knew she had no choice but to follow my orders and pull over.
An easy choice
I could tell he was hard of hearing as I called out to him from the shoulder of the road, so I got out of the car to talk to him. Bill was on his way home from singing at a local restaurant and ensured us that he makes this walk all the time. I knew the walk would take me at least 40 minutes, and I could only imagine how long it would take Bill in this heat, with his poor vision, and his cane. I asked if we could at least give him a ride home, and he happily accepted.
How easily we could have kept driving, probably never giving the old man on the side of the road a second thought. How easily we could have listened to our fear of the unknown – not knowing if he would accept help, unsure of the type of person he was, hesitant to go out of our comfort zones and do the thing that felt right in our hearts.
But just as easily as we could have submitted to fear, we seized the opportunity, and let me tell you, it was completely worth it.
Our new friend, Bill
Bill invited us into his beautiful home, a home he worked hard on and was continuing to rehab and update, even through his failing vision. He took me down past the gurgling creek running through his property to the little gazebo he was painting. Bill then led us inside and offered us a cold drink, then proceeded to take us on a tour of his house, explaining that his wife died a few years ago and all of his kids and grandchildren lived out of state. We learned that he’s an active member at our church and sings in a barbershop group regularly.
Before we left, we took his phone number, exchanged our final pleasantries, and headed out.
As we drove away from the almost magical looking cottage, I knew my mom and I felt the same thing. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but it was a mixture of contentment, longing, fulfillment, and wanting … wanting of more of this. Wanting of more Bill. Wanting of more neighborly gestures. Wanting of more comradery.
A continued friendship
Fast forward a few summers later, and we’re still in touch with Bill. In fact, my family just recently was on their way to dinner and saw him walking. They picked him up and treated him to our favorite restaurant for a steak dinner. Bill lent my dad the book Angela’s Ashes and they all had a great time.
What it’s all about
This is what it’s all about, my friends. All those considerate things you think are nice to do but feel funny doing them, it’s time to do them. It’s time to move past your questions, fear, embarrassment, or apathy and embrace the opportunities the day brings you.
A necessary audit
I have been feeling very bogged down by drama that surrounds my little world. I have been feeling discouraged that amidst the horribly tragic events of the world that I can do nothing about, people around me choose malice; I’ve seen people I’m very close to turn into spiteful, cruel people. I’ve felt stress and unhappiness as I’ve gotten swept into this ugly cloud of drama … over what?
It’s not easy to do, but if you can take a moment to audit the stresses and problems in your life, are they really worth it? Are you picking the wrong fights? Are you choosing ruthlessness when you could easily choose generosity?
Small and mighty
I don’t like harping on problems without discussing solutions. If we think there is nothing we can do to make a dent in the world’s problems, think smaller. Smaller doesn’t mean less important, smaller doesn’t mean not worth it. I urge all of us to search for the little opportunities in our day-to-day activities; if a Bill doesn’t fall into your lap, wait until tomorrow, or search for your opportunity. What is holding you back?
Let’s all take a breather in our lives to examine ourselves, to check our battles, to seek opportunities for generosity. If we can all do that, I wouldn’t consider those opportunities small – the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference.
How do you think you can seize these small, daily opportunities? What do you think holds you back?