Several months ago, I mailed out a stack of kindness cards to brave volunteers. On each card was a random act of "guerilla goodness". I asked anyone who was willing to share their experience of following through on the ideas on the card, here on MommyCoddle.
This email came to me a few weeks ago from my dear friend Sarah of urban.prairie.forest.
Read and be inspired.
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"We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage (or dare I say community), you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."
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This is what my boom boom! card said, “You know that person you see everywhere? The one you smile at and say hi to everyday on your way to work, on your run or walk, at the grocery store? Next time, introduce yourself and find out their name.” then, to revolutionize it, “each time you see them, say hi using their name.”
We live in a small mountain town outside of a small beach town in northern california. There are a couple of men I see almost every time we drive somewhere. After reading my Boom Boom card I imagined stopping and saying hello to the tall guy who rides his bicycle rain or shine sitting unusually upright. He who does his laundry at the “awesome” laundromat in town verses the “ordinary” one. Or I pictured greeting the man who looks uncannily like Albert Einstein and seems to walk every where he goes. I wondered if maybe we’d bump into him at the library again and I’d have the opportunity to say, ”hello! what is your name?” I hoped for that since it might be freaky if we pulled over on the side of the road so I can step out & ask his name just so the next time we drive by I can roll down the window and call out, “Hi Albert!” (only using his real name, of course).
I found myself in the local natural foods store which we frequent. I see the same people working every time. Usually smile and have small talk, that’s how you roll in a small town. I realized, after reading this Boom Boom card, I didn’t know anyone’s name which brings me to Boom Boom card Subject number 1. Let me describe her for you since I wasn’t A.) brave enough to ask her permission to take a photo and B.) wasn’t stealth enough to hide at the end of an aisle & secretly take one. Ali has brown hair, stick straight and down to her waist (though recently she bleached it platinum blonde). She is probably mid-twenties, likes to sit outside the back of the store on her break for a cigarette, smiles after you smile first. She has her right brow pierced and beautiful doe like eyes. She was checking out my groceries when I introduced myself and asked her name. I see her almost every visit to the grocery store. Now, I say hello and call her by name. Interesting, she smiles before I do.
Subject number 2.
Thursday night, after a full day in town, we were making our last stop for late night burritos after hip hop class. There before me is the “Highway 9 Hitchhiker.” We’ve never picked him up before, but our friend Dan used to when he would borrow our car. We could tell because there would be the left over smell of old cigarette smoke seeped into the seats and everytime we’d pass him on the road he would smile, turn and prepare to walk to our pulled over car only to discover our car wasn’t slowing down to give him a ride, I could see it in the rear view mirror. It wasn’t for a number of weeks after Dan moved away that Eddie would just give us the usual thumbs up and wave as we passed by. The same signal he gives everyone that keeps on going. So here he is in front of me at the taqueria so I ask him his name. I tell him that he is often seen traveling between our small towns in the valley we live. I ask him how long he has lived in this area and he tells me over twenty years. He is full of smiles, his eyes light up, he laughs because he thinks my husband and I wear matching glasses. His name is Eddie Nelson and I know that now for when our windows are down on our way through town we can call out, “hello Eddie” as we pass him! (no, I am still not going to pick up hitchhikers when alone with my children, even if I know his name...)
Subject number 3.
Back in the natural food store at the check out line. A man who looks younger than I believe he is stands working with an eternal twinkle in his eye. We usually have more than a little small talk. He will tell me about his other job or ask what my girls and I were up to...not just how is your day, but more direct questions. He is very friendly, permeates a sort of peace, calm and light. It’s time to grab the bag and walk out so I quickly introduce myself & ask him his name. Off we go... A few days later I pop in to grab some ice cream for my girls. It’s become a Friday tradition with a few friends. One of the other momma’s chooses a different check out line and I joke that it’s a race. In my slightly competitive nature my energy is quick and I’m glancing over at my friend. I thanked ________* for checking us out and took the ice cream to leave. He said, “have a great day Sarah!” I stopped turned around and smiled. It felt so nice to be seen, to be remembered, to be known. That feeling is something I want to return. Though his name had slipped my mind at the time, thankfully he gave his business card to my husband so I can pull a Nancy Drew and return the kindness he showed me.
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Since arbitrarily becoming subject number three myself, I have been even more determined to return the favor of seeing others and using their name. David* who was intended to be subject number three consistently uses my name. I actually thanked him and told him about this little project. He smiled and with such gratitude thanked me back for sharing that with him. I have seen Eddie and Ali each week since (except when we were out of town) and have had ample opportunity to use their names and say hello. Just last week Eddie posed for a photo outside the taqueria where we met. I've become sweet friends with some of the families at dance and look forward to the two hours of waiting because now it's not just waiting, it's catching up. We have yet to meet upright sitting bicycle man or Albert Einstien, but are prepared for a greeting for when that time arrives.
Say hello, ask people their names, see & be seen. You might be surprised but most importantly, everybody needs a witness.