I’d seen her many times traveling down the road in her electric wheelchair. Wisps of gray hair poking out from beneath her bright orange beanie along with her Levi jacket and wooden staff across her lap combined to make her a curious site to the passerby. I always wondered who she was and about her story. As I was leaving the grocery store the other day, I saw her. Part of me wanted to introduce myself; the other part told me that I was too busy to stop. I almost passed her. Almost. I stopped and introduced myself.
For the next 20 minutes, I listened intently as her story unfolded. At 80 years old, she made the nearly 4-mile trek to the grocery store and other places because she was fiercely independent. She did have a son and some grandchildren, but they were an hour’s drive away from where she lived. (Their pictures were taped to her staff.) Lynn, originally from Tennessee, was a former teacher. She first taught fourth grade and then moved to the high school. Afterward, she spent most of her career teaching at a boys’ correctional facility in California. She was an obvious tough cookie packaged in a small frame.
As we continued to talk, we found that we had a lot in common like our birthdays being only a day a part. We talked about our love of kids and education. We talked about our passion for science, history and trying to make a difference in the world. It’s funny how I thought that by stopping and introducing myself that I could offer to help her in some way. Instead, she helped me. Her wisdom, experiences, and insight uplifted my soul and gave me strength. I will be forever grateful that I stopped and took the time to hear her story.
Meeting Lynn makes me think about how many times we don’t take enough time to get to know the people we work with on a daily basis and how much our lives would be enriched if we took more time to have face to face conversations. Everyone has a story. How many stories are going untold because we’re too busy to listen to each other? How many lessons are going unlearned? How many people, like Lynn, have so much to offer but no way of giving back and feel of little worth and value?Now, more than ever, our country needs to show kindness to others. Taking the time to listen is the first step.