Going in the middle of the afternoon to my local supermarket. 4 lines opened. All packed. I choose to stand behind an older man who has just a boxed meal in his cart. The woman in front of him has a full cart but it should not take that long…. Or maybe it should. Couple minutes pass. We still don’t move.
As we are complaining that we chose the wrong lane, he starts sharing with me that he comes here every day to get his dinner. His wife of 40 years passed last April and since then he barely can get out of the house once a day to get one meal. They have no kid, no family members. They were all for each other and I just stay there listening to him as he tells me about the last week of her life, the funeral by himself, and then that, a life he doesn’t know what to do about.
I listen and then ask him what type of woman she was. His eyes light up as he tells me how they met as he retired as a Navy officer. He was probably a strong guy and she was this outgoing bubbly woman who liked to buy nice dresses :). He smiles thinking of her and they tears comes to his eyes. It’s so hard to see a grown up man cry in silence. He tells me he is good with computer, that he once had a company and maybe he should try to do something. One step at a time.
Today was his day to share with a perfect stranger. The line didn’t move for over 10 minute and none of us moved to the next lane that was now empty. My role was just to hold space for him. His role was to be vulnerable and say his pain. There are sometime as an emotional healer the most generous gift you can share is the gift of your time, undivided attention and listen the person in pain.
As I am launching my program Heartbreak 911, I realize that this encounter was not coincidence. A way for him to express his feeling, a way for me to get a dose of humility and recognize that sometimes there is nothing I can do beyond being present as a human being.
A perfect encounter.