Just a few days ago I was sitting in a Doctor's waiting room, very much in my own head. Nervous and worried and gently rubbing my thumb back and forth over the tiny cross that my lovely neighbor gave me years ago, while staring at the crazy design on the carpeting under my feet.
I looked up and I looked around at the other women sharing the waiting room with me. I wondered - what are their stories? Why are they here? They all seem calm, but within their own heads, just as I was.
I smiled at the older woman near me and I asked, "how are you"? A flood of words came out of her... about how she'd been cancer free for ten years now. About how this radiologist was the best and had saved her life, but that she was still always worried that they might find more cancer. She asked me my story and I shared with her why I was there. She asked me where I was from and about my family, and she told me about her oldest daughter just becoming a grandmother, and she a great-grandmother.
When my name was called and I stood to follow the radiology technician, she reached out to me, touched my hand, smiled and said "good luck." I responded with a smile and a "good luck to you too."
That tiny bit of human interaction at a time that I really just wanted to withdraw into myself made me feel better. And I truly think that I made that woman feel better too. I realized that I wasn't alone. I wasn't the only one fearful and worried and needing a prayer.
I'm not a big chit-chatter by nature. I feel that I'm a friendly person, but find it difficult to carry on a conversation with a total stranger. I am so glad that I looked up that day. I'm so glad that I smiled at the woman and asked her how she was. As she opened up I realized that she needed some human interaction. We both needed that "we're in the same boat" feeling, and we're not alone with this.
As children we are warned to not talk to strangers. I think we subconsciously carry this warning with us even as adults. But everywhere we go we are surrounded by people we don't know. Maybe the next time we're tempted to withdraw into our phones, or a book, or to put our earbuds in to prevent conversation, maybe we could just look around. If we took a second to smile and to ask "how are you"?, or to declare "nice day" it may be just the opening that a person needs to release some fear or worry, or to get something off of their chest.
Remember, these people we walk past every day, or sit next to in a waiting room, have names. They have families and worries and hopes and dreams. Just like we do.
"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."