Today, I needed to ask a stranger for help. I do everything I can to avoid this, but life is life and situations are not always under our control. The only person that was around was an elderly man, with a face that looked like it had set in concrete. His mask may have covered his nose and mouth, but my those eyes. He looked hard. He looked old. He looked angry. But, I've learned not to read too much into resting faces, my face at rest also looks like I'm suffering through a really bad day.
He turned out to be a wonderfully gentle man. We only had a brief conversation when I let him know that I needed assistance we chatted while he helped out. I thanked him as we said goodbye and he brushed my thanks away. The whole encounter was instructive to me. He managed to help me, not in a showy way, or a condescending way, not to a background of angels singing hallelujah. In fact, I didn't feel lessened by the interaction. To help and to not diminish in the helping is an art.
I thought about him and told Joe about what had happened. Sometimes being disabled and needing help does not hurt. I pointed him out to Joe when I spied him as we were about to leave. I pushed my chair hard chasing up to where he was walking towards the door.
I caught up to him and he turned to me in acknowledgment. I stammered out that I wanted to say that he was a tremendously kind man. His head dropped as if I'd punched him in the gut. He looked away from me, not letting me see his face. He just said, "It's a long time since someone called me kind." And he walked off.
I don't know his story. I don't know his journey. I don't know about his relationships with the people he loves. But I do know that I'm glad I told him. Even though I'd felt a bit embarrassed to do so.
But he'd given me a gift.
And I wanted to thank him for it.