Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Warming Up & People Watching

Yesterday, my husband and I were sitting on a concrete wall watching people walk by in Downtown Disney.  The sky was an almost cliche blue with perfectly puffed clouds and the sunshine was warming the tops of our heads and making my eyes squint slightly even behind my oversized sunglasses. My chin was resting against my husband's shoulder and we sat in lovely silence for what felt like longer than it was.   Physically, I was unbelievably comfortable. 

But as I watched the people stream by -- couples, families, brothers, lovers, grandparents, sisters, friends -- my chest began to ache, a deep, deep ache that felt like it had started at the center of me and now was strong enough for my ribcage to sense.  I have felt this ache before and I usually have to quickly turn my attention to some task to take my mind away from it.  When I see people, especially in large numbers, I become overwhelmed by what I can only call love.

I see those faces, so many faces, and I wonder: Who knows him? Who cares about her? Are they happy? Is she lonely? Does he like himself? Where do they belong?

I imagine myself finding the empty space inside each one of them and being able to hand them a piece that would fill it perfectly.  And then they would smile and move on and I would know they were okay. I want to jump up and stop each of them as they pass, let each one know that I am willing to care and willing to help with whatever battle they may be fighting.

But that isn't how it works. Instead, as the people walk by, I become more and more aware of the inability I have to take away the pains of the world. If I let it, this sense of smallness could keep me frozen. 

Instead, I stood up, took my husband's hand in mine, and focused on making him feel like he belonged, right there with me.  And I reminded myself that I have been given people in my life -- my husband, my sons, my family, friends, colleagues and students -- and what a gift that is, the opportunity to fill even a little bit of the emptiness that any of them may be carrying around with them.  I may not be able to save the world, but I can warm the hearts and spirits of those in my life so that they can do the same for others.


Kim said...

Beautiful. I love the description of how physically comfortable you were and then how you compared it to your internal discomfort.

My daughter and I like to people watch and make up the stories that go with the people-- she is only 12, so we don't go too deep, but it is very interesting nonetheless.

Nice job, as usual!

Juice said...

Wow. I loved this!! I'm starting to find that you and I have much more in common than our name. As you know, I had a traumatic event occur my sophomore year, which led me to participate in a year of therapy post-incident. In addition to many other analyzations my therapist made about me, there was one that she said that has stuck with me. She desribed my contributions in ASB, school, family, and community service as my having a need to help others. She called it the "uncontrollable love bug" for short. I don't like being cocky, and therefore shot this idea down, thinking "yes, I always want to help people, but isn't everyone that way?" But as I've come to find, not everyone is this way, and I've become proud of this trait I possess. I believe you and I are very similar-always longing to help, touch, impact every person we come across. I'm not quite sure how my life will turn out or how many people I'll touch, but I know for a fact that you've impactted the lives of so many. Thank you for that. Thank you for being so selfless that you care about the strangers you see and don't know.-Stephanie Rose