Monday, November 21, 2016

Being Seen at Starbucks

Last week I accompanied a group of eighth graders on a field trip. Before meeting at the school to board the bus, my daughter, husband and I hit a Starbucks across the street for some much needed caffeine. The extra long line was all a buzz with excitement, because most of them were my daughter's school mates, all headed on the same trip!

Shortly after placing our order, I noticed a woman sitting alone, waiting for her name to be called. She was beautiful and wearing a headscarf. In a split second, my limited knowledge of headscarves led me to make the assumption that she was Muslim. I then looked more closely at her expression, and couldn't decide if it was one of fear, loneliness, sadness, boredom, irritation ... or maybe all of the above. Everyone else waiting for orders was striking up conversations with others around them. Even with people they didn't know. That seems to happen at coffee houses. We're all so happy to be there, getting our fix. This woman, however, seemed to be invisible, and while it's not in my nature to reach out and chat with a stranger (there are actually fewer things I dislike more), there was something in me, pushing me out of my comfort zone. Dang it.

As I got closer to her, I noticed that she was wearing red scrubs with the logo, "Fresno City College Radiology". So I asked her if she attended Fresno City College, even though it was pretty obvious that she did ... or maybe taught there.

What happened next was the sweetest thing I've ever experienced in a Starbucks. Her stoic expression changed IN AN INSTANT to PURE JOY. It was as if she'd been sitting there, like she probably had done countless times, waiting to be seen. Waiting for someone, anyone, to just talk to her. She told me that she was in a 22 month program at Fresno City College, and was headed that morning to a hospital down the street for hands-on training. That sweet woman talked a mile a minute about her training, her family, her interest in helping people, and all with a sparkle in her eyes and smile on her face. 

Not long after I'd approached her, I was saddened to hear our order announced, because I knew our conversation would have to end. As I left, I told her it was so nice talking with her. She said the same. Then I touched her shoulder and said, "God bless you." She smiled and said, "Thank you."

I walked away feeling so blessed to have met someone so precious. I can only hope she left feeling loved.

It would have been much easier to have pretended I was too busy to exchange a few words with someone who looked to be so different. I'm thankful that on this day, I did the opposite. I hope I continue to choose the uncomfortable and reach out to others, especially when my introvertedness begs me to retreat.

Putting yourself out there and being friendly may feel awkward at times, but the reward is great. For everyone. Especially the one who takes the risk. 

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