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I want to tell you a quick story.
It’s a small story.
Nothing earth shattering happened.
But it was very meaningful to me.
But in some ways, in a time of need……it helped me really clarify what I’m trying to do with my work, my art and my life.
It started with a simple question –
“what are you eating, I asked”
It was 2 am, this past July 1st.
It was also my birthday.
I was spending it alone.
And I was standing in a short line in the only all night supermarket in Key West, Florida……..buying a weird late night snack of one mango, one peppermint Christmas Cane way out of season, a bottle of wine (or 2) and some sort of cheese and cracker spread that seemed like as good of a way as any other to celebrate another year on Planet Earth.
“My dinner”, she replied.
The girl behind the counter, someone I had seen plenty of times before, was digging her free hand into an endless brown paper bag and seemed to be really enjoying whatever it was she called dinner.
I took a quick look at her……she looked to be anywhere between 30 and 40, with home made tattoos all up and down her arms, her hair pulled back in a tight bun that was fraying with the hour, her eyes tired…….her face worn, her supermarket provided attire hung loosely to her large frame.
In short – she looked, as always……to be a bit of a frumpy, frazzled mess.
But, this woman…..who i had seen many times, in similar late night food runs……always had something endearing about her, a combination of vulnerable yet VITAL, sad……yet strong, …….and a survivor without a shadow of a doubt.
And just when i thought the short conversation had run it’s course…….
She said –
“they’re made of tofu, and their terrible. I’ve got to start taking care of myself. My blood pressure is way too high and i’ve got diabetes. My doctor told me I have to quit smoking…….and lose 100 pounds or I’ll be dead in 5 years”
She gave me a long, sad, forlorn look…….and for a moment, I didn’t know what to say, so I said, sort of awkwardly…..
“you definitely don’t need to lose 100 pounds”
(i ALMOST reassuringly said – 50 at MOST – but thankfully the angel of tact landed on my right shoulder right before my mouth could open again)
By now…..her laser like gaze, and bright blue eyes were fixed on my face –
“you know she said, had my husband not left me with 2 kids to raise on my own, and having to work 3 jobs to stay alive, maybe i wouldn’t have gotten so goddamn fat. you know what it’s like trying to raise teenage boys on my income?”
I didn’t. So I just stood there continuing to look stupid while she continued.
“would you believe i was the homecoming queen in college? I still have the pictures. I was really, really pretty. Who would have thought that 20 years would pass so quick and I’d get up one day and be the Ugly Duckling?”
People had started to fill in the line behind me….and her eyes remain laser locked on mine.
I tried to think of something to say.
You’re not an ugly duckling came to mind.
Cursing myself for asking what she was eating in the first place came to mind.
A witty, or warm retort eluded me.
And yet, our eyes were locked in gaze of expectancy – and in the conversational “Q”, the ball was definitely in my court.
So in the moment….knowing I had to say something, and yet suffering from a lead tongue, I did something a bit unusual for me.
I said nothing.
I took a big step through the opening and gave her a HUG.
At first she looked surprised.
And then she started to giggle.
And the drunk tourists and townies in line behind me – alternated catcalls of “awwww…..” and “get a room!”
And what started as a silly tongue tied gesture of not having anything to witty to say, turned into something much more meaningful, if only for 30 seconds, for both of us.
Because as we parted the hug….and I quickly packed my 5 items in a bag, her smile could have lit the supermarket on it’s own.
Her blue eyes a bit more bright.
And while I couldn’t see my own………i knew i looked the same way.
Goofy, yet giddy.
I sat out in the parking lot, in my car for a few minutes…and really thought about it.
Hug a stranger.
Who knew it would feel this good?
It was a great late night birthday gift – from Me, to Me.
The truth is, unless you’re Angeline Jolie, you can’t go around hugging strangers and get away with it.
So most of us don’t.
And we miss out.
About 3 weeks ago, having just returned to town after 4 away, I made my first late supermarket stop of the season.
My new friend, looking better and brighter than I remembered, was in her usual spot.
She was busy chatting with a young couple, and I was tempted to pick another line, not to push my luck, or risk a blank stare of no recollection.
As I got closer and closer to the front of line, I was certain she didn’t remember…..and that it was silly of me to think that there was sort of magic in that moment, that it had made a difference at all.
I‘m a silly, sensitive, overly sentimental sap.
And then it happened………
“THERE he is”, she bellowed loud enough for all 12 lines to hear.
“My FAVORITE customer.”
“Come HERE, Sweetie!”
And the HUG – Part Duex…..officially was underway…:-)
The End 🙂
For the last few months……I’ve been quietly working on a next generation marketing system for People of Passion, who want to make a difference in the world.
Contribution over cash.
If that resonates with you…..as 2012 approaches, your focus should be simple:
Make your WORK about hugging as many people as possible……EVEN if you rarely leave the house like me.
The beauty of a blog, for example…… is that it you can shape, shift, touch, tweak, inspire and awaken so much energy and emotion…..and purely through the poetry of your own authentic gifts.
If your passion is PURE, the more bodies you bump up against, the better you’ll do.
And from that warm fuzzy feeling……from that chaos, that connection and that collective Kumbaya……….you’ll find YOUR community, your customers and clients, and ultimately……….the cash we all seek underneath.
That’s my Holiday wish for you.
If you’d like to share a big fat hug, say hi on FACEBOOK.
Or just leave a comment below!
AND – if you participated in the last 10 day mini challenge…….some killer updates are coming. (The new stuff I’m working on is really going to be great, super easy to follow and you’re going to love it, i promise..:-)
Updates will be posted here.