We were out for Mike’s birthday, sitting on a patio, in the middle of a pandemic. The girls were with us because our car is too small to have 4 people in the back seat. Mike and his girlfriend Joss were following in a cab. We arrived at the restaurant first and were seated on the patio, with goodly distance from others there. We sat Mike and Joss arrive and hop out of the cab on the opposite side of the street. I waved to get their attention.
In truth, I was thinking that I just wanted this to get over with and then go home. I’d had a busy day in the office, there was so much to do. I’d had an emotional day in the office as well, we had driven down right after my virtual retirement party and I’d seen some people that I didn’t realize how much I needed to see them. So I was drained. The prospect of a very late lunch or a very early dinner with all the noise that accompanies birthday parties was daunting.
As I was waving to Mike, an elderly homeless man was going by. He was dressed in a sweat suit and never had the name been more appropriate. He caught my wave out of the corner of his eye. A wary smile pulled at his mouth and he turned towards me. I saw him and didn’t see him at the same time because I was trying to get Mike’s attention across the street. He had fallen out of focus.
Mike waved back and I relaxed into my chair and it was then I noticed that he had started walking towards us on the patio. He was hesitant as if each step he took was a risk. There was a question in his eyes? Me? You were waving to me? I realized what he thought and I smiled and called, “No, I was waving to someone over there?” I pointed where. His face fell, the smile disappeared, faint hope was gone. He apologized and turned and continued on his way.
I thought two things:
How often do I feel inconvenienced by thinks that I should be grateful for?
That interaction with that polite old man left him hurt. Accidentally. But hurt nonetheless. I’ve been wondering what I could have done, at that moment to make him feel valued and less alone. Ideas?