Sunday, January 7, 2018

Staring and Eavesdropping

My Mom always taught me it was rude to stare... and to eavesdrop.

Yours, too?

And I get it, because I know how uncomfortable it can make you when someone is staring at you unashamed. How violated it can make you feel when someone is listening in to your private conversation.

But sometimes, I can't help myself. As I sit in a restaurant, I can't help but watch the people around me.

The lady sitting at the table by herself, mindlessly stirring the creamer into her coffee...

Did she choose to be alone? Did someone stand her up? Is she a Mom savoring a few minutes of quiet time while her little girl is in gymnastics class?

The couple sitting at the bar. She leans over and casually places her hand on his arm as she laughs at whatever he just said. Are they married? Surely not, because  most married couples just sit and blankly stare at each other as they pretend to have something to talk about, right? Maybe they are a newly dating couple... or maybe they have just reconciled. Or maybe they aren't even a couple at all. Maybe he's dating someone else and they just went out for drinks after class, but she's madly in love with him even though she knows it's hopeless.

There's the family sitting behind me. They're getting ready to order and the teenager moodily retorts, "Just leave me alone, Mom.  I'm tired of you asking me all these questions. I'm not hungry anymore."

The waitress comes to their table and it's not in what she says, but more in how she says it, a soft restraint in her voice as she waits one.  more.  table.  in a long string of one dollar tips as she worries about the sleeping baby at home with the babysitter.

Then, there's those tables around me where the entire group stares at their cell phone the entire time...

And I get that, too. An escape from reality. I don't feel great about my life, my connections in real-life, so I'll scroll down the screen and pretend like the "like" on my status means that somebody gets me, somebody understands me.

Yes, it may be rude to stare and eavesdrop, but in today's society it is absolutely necessary to pay attention... because you never know the lifeline those around you may need.

That kind word spoken to the waitress at the end of her long shift as she worries about her baby?

It may have been just the word needed to convince her to seek shelter at the local domestic violence center and finally get her freedom.

That touch on the arm from the lady at the bar? It may have been comfort because her coworker was just fired, and she's encouraging him to not give up on his dream of venturing out on his own.

The waitress who brings that woman sitting alone another refill before she asks, smiling and complimenting her sweater, may have been the very sunshine the young lady needed before heading across the street to her chemotherapy appointment.

Meeting that mother's eye as you leave the restaurant, nodding at the sullen teenager but smiling at the Mom and telling her through your eye contact, "I get it. Mine is grown now, and you'll get through this and so will she" in just that brief glance may be just the thing she needed to keep on encouraging the girl who seems like she doesn't want encouraged.

We never know.

Look up. Listen. Offer yourself. Live present. Be kind.

You may be someone's saving grace.

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