January 30, 2017
It was 7:30 a.m. and I had just entered the hospital waiting room. I scoped out the room’s seating choices and immediately opted for a chair on the right side of the room, which was on the opposite end from the room’s only other occupant, a woman in her mid-sixties.
I gave her a quick smile and had just pulled out my phone to check my e-mail when I was startled by her voice.
“Hi there! Would you mind terribly much moving over to this side of the room with me? It would be so nice to have someone to visit with while I wait.”
I was a little taken aback by her request but I couldn’t imagine saying no to such a friendly invitation. I grabbed my purse and moved to the chair opposite her, curious to see where our conversation might take us.
She looked at me and beamed as though she had just run across her dearest childhood friend. I smiled back without even knowing I was doing it, so completely was I under the spell of her cheery enthusiasm.
With a contented sigh she leaned back in her chair and said, “So, tell me where you are from. Are you a native of the Outer Banks or did you move here from somewhere else?”
Out of all the things I might have been expecting, that question was a total surprise. She was asking questions about me?”
In most of the conversations I am a part of, I do most of the listening, simply because I know people are eager to talk and eager for their stories to be heard. So that’s my thing, my way of making a difference–listening.
To have someone start a conversation by asking me a question threw me off my stride for a minute but I managed to gather my surprised wits around me and answer her question. I then followed up by asking where she was from. She was just about to answer when the door opened and the phlebotomist called her name.
She sent a warm, goodbye smile in my direction and just as she disappeared through the door I overheard her say, “Oh that’s fine. You don’t need to tell me where the lab is; I’m a frequent flyer around here.”
And that was it. She was gone.
Although that encounter took place over two years ago, I still often think about that woman and our brief time together. Here some of my musings:
I have no way of knowing where that woman is today. But if she is still alive, I picture her going through her day, taking what could very well be depressing circumstances–namely, frequent trips to the hospital–and turning them into chances to connect, turning them into chances to share a smile, turning them into opportunities for people to look up from their iPhones and actually see one other.
And now, just about every time I go into a waiting room, I think of her. I remember her cheery smile and her sweet invitation to a stranger in a hospital to come and be a part of her world for a few minutes.
I want to be more like her. To live outwardly rather than inwardly. To be the first person to speak. To initiate the first smile. To give a compliment. To look up from my phone and really see the people around me.
And in doing all those things I will be remembering and I will be honoring that woman.
Thrift stores, fuzzy socks
and conversing with my Yorkie
are all on the list of things I love.