Encouraging Words

Sometimes, I get things right. An opportunity presents itself and I behave just the way I would like to. When I reflect later, I think, “Yes, that was good,” and not, “Oh, no, I should have…”

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a friend and I were out. We stopped at the library so I could return materials and pick up holds. My friend went to peruse the stacks and I sat at a table to wait. I soon noticed an older man with two young girls. They appeared to be a grandfather out with his granddaughters. The girls weren’t being bad, they were just young. They stopped in the middle of aisles to look at their picture books. They didn’t take turns smoothly at the self-checkout station. The man had a great plan, but it wasn’t being executed as gracefully as he’d intended.

I could see the grandfather’s frustration level rising. Very likely, he was running some of the same self-talk that plagues the rest of us: “Am I all right?” “Why can’t I make things work the way I want them to?” “We must be annoying other people.” I’ve been there. I thought I could at least set him at ease on the last of these. When an opportunity arose, I made eye contact, gave him a thumbs up, and said, “You are doing good work.” His shoulders visibly lowered and he took a breath.

It looked as though his self-talk shifted: “These are not irritations, they are my precious granddaughters.” “We are not annoying the world, we are among friends.” I’m not a mind reader so I don’t know what he actually thought. I do know that what happened next was he guided the girls over to my table and asked if I would like to say hello. So I admired their book choices and their swimsuits. Grandpa was taking them to the pool next and then out for ice cream. I observed that they were lucky to have such a great grandpa.

The whole exchange took just a few minutes. I like to think that it helped. If things didn’t go smoothly again later that day, perhaps the grandfather didn’t go straight into embarrassment. We are social creatures. It matters to us to be accepted by our community — to know that others see us and are glad that we are here. If it takes a village to raise a child, then one aspect is surely to cheer on other adults in the act of caring for children — especially when they bring them into the social sphere.

Anyway, back to my original point: at other times, in similar situations, I have been oblivious or deliberately ignored or felt and expressed annoyance. On this occasion, I had the grace to be present and to connect in a light and friendly way. I like to acknowledge and cheer myself on when I behave like this. I’d like it to become the norm.

What about you?

Any friendly chance interactions that you’d care to share?

Any moments in your own life when you were present in a way that pleased you?

Jul 26

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