|photo from southernliving.com via google images|
Crape Myrtles and sweet tea, cheese grits and hush puppies and a fresh Fall breeze. I took in a deep breath and watched as the golden leaves began to flutter to the ground. It was a lovely evening, the kind I used to like best in my sleepy North Carolina town. There wasn’t much going on, most folks were winding down. There was no traffic, no reason to hustle, just an invitation to be for a while.
So I sat on my porch with a few neighbors that evening. We were four total, each one of us enjoying the night in our own little way. Knowing me, I’m pretty sure I lost myself in the trees. Dan, he probably lost himself in his micro-brew. And the other couple (forgive me for I can’t remember their names), I think they were talking about their new eco-washing machine from New Zealand or maybe it was something else eco-conscious, something that miraculously reeled both Dan and I in like willing fish. And somehow that dynamic worked so well that each of us was smiling. Yep, I remember our smiles that evening almost as clearly as what would happen next.
He didn’t announce himself, he just appeared out of nowhere and the sight of him as much as his energy, caught each of us off guard. He was big. And he was tough. The lines on his face and the rugged in his hands told no lie. He was both lost and determined. Determined to get what he wanted. From us.
“Gotta light?” he said, with a deep dark voice as rich as molasses.
Was he homeless? Was he violent? Was he mean and were we in danger? Would he hurt us if we said the wrong thing? My neighbors fumbled, their eyes staring back in fear, their mouths, mum.
“Hey,” I said, as if he were an old friend. “What’s your name? I’m Brynne. Nice to meet you,” and I outstretched my hand.
He looked at me like I was crazy but I kept my hand outstretched, staring him right in the eye, reassuring him that I was for real.
“You gonna shake it, or leave me hanging?” I said, pure friendly again.
So he shook it, but not before his eyes softened and his energy quieted into something like a puppy after being reassured that his owner wasn’t going to hit him.
“Name is Alonso.”
“Nice to meet you, Alonso. Now here’s the thing.” And I took in another deep breath, my heart beating out of my skin. “None of us here smokes. So I’m afraid we don’t have a light for you. And I gotta be honest with you, Alonso. Next time, don’t sneak up on us like that. When you sneak up on people you give them the wrong idea. And you don’t want to be giving folks the wrong idea. You’re not a scary guy. You’re a nice guy. A nice guy with a big heart that you think no one can see. But guess what?” And I looked at him straight on so he knew I was talking truth. “I can. I know you’re a good man. So be that good man. I know you can.”
And for a moment, no one said a thing, the air heavy with anticipation.
“That’s right. I am,” he finally said, in a voice that sounded a little bit shocked. “Thank you, Ms. Brynne. You have a good night, now, ok?” And as he walked away, I’m sure I saw that puppy inside him wag his tail something fierce.
* * *
What kind of world do you want to live in?
What kind of people do you want to be surrounded by?
What kinds of feelings do you want to have every day of your life?
*If you want to live in a world filled with kindness, then be kind.
*If you want to be surrounded by caring people, then be caring.
*If you want to feel things in your heart every day of your life, things that feel good, then listen to your heart, honor your heart, live a heart-centered life.
If someone scares you, find a way to befriend them.
Look for the beauty.
Look for the kindness.
Look for the love.
For I promise you … the beauty and the kindness and the love is always there. It lives in each one of us. In some it may be buried very deeply. Maybe it’s lost behind walls of pain. But I promise you, with the right timing and a truly open heart, you will find it. If I can find it in a probable ex-con who could have snapped me in two like a twig, you can find it in anyone. Yep, even in that man on the playground who refuses to let his child use the word love.:)