SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 328: “Two Rejections And A Gift”

Seems it’s the week of questions for me, and just as did Jamar yesterday, today’s stranger now friend, Pamela, breaks the ice, inquiring, “Do you feel like you are growing as a person, or just getting inside the heads of how people think?”

We talk for a while about her query, and to save you from having to read the thousand or so words that it would take to fully publish our discussion, I’ll just give you a few bullets:

• My life will never be the same and I’m dedicating it to growing the 365 mission.
• Every person, no matter what the circumstance, has virtues of value.
• I have learned more than I have shared, and from now on, I will always regard the power of the individual as magnificent.
• The ability to do good lies in the hearts of all of us.
• The majority of people want the same things in life.
• Respect, love and acceptance are greater weapons than ego, money and politics.
• Those that intimidate you most, are often likely as afraid of you as you are of them.
• The slightest gesture of kindness can open guarded hearts.

Per today, in leading me to meeting Pamela, I’ve taken several rejections from other people, all of which led to short and meaningful conversations. “No worries, they are leading me to my next friend,” I’ve grown to accept this mantra as a guiding light in directing my navigation, and in it, have accepted the fact that not everyone wants to be photographed and interviewed by a complete stranger. But, even in this assessment, I have began to feel of a mutual respect with all who have allowed the invisible walls of self-created segregation to be broken. A message clearly telegraphed by the handshakes exchanged and the nodding smiles in departing from today’s rejections. That alone is gratifying enough, and I’ll never stop challenging you to try reaching out whenever you can. You’ll find that everyone has fascinating stories and wisdom to share. The secret is allowing self to slow down in observing the people around us. And when conversations occur, tempering yourselves to listen a little longer, and to contribute a bit more openly. For what I am finding is that there are endless moments when eyes meet, and the more we, as a whole can recognize them, then the mathematical increases of those making change in outlook can be passed on, even in the slightest of gestures, again, an honest and heartfelt hello.

I’m not making this stuff up; I’ve been experimenting with hello for almost a year now; like just after my meeting with Pamela, a nod I exchanged to rushed family at Little Caesars Pizza. While, in waiting for my order, I noticing a mother and a daughter who for some reason were scurrying their pace. At one instant the mother caught me in her sight. I tipped my hat, warmly smiled, and the results were a trip. Her countenance changed, her pace slowed and I watched her as her tone towards the people around her and the counter staff became more tolerant. I’m even a touch embarrassed in telling you about such a personal moment. And in sharing it, as I have stated many times, it is not of me. I make no claims of being anyone with special abilities and reveal it without any want of ego gratifying applause. Bottom line… I’m just a regular guy, meeting regular people, while doing my best to raise a family, to keep a roof over our heads and maintain a spark of dignity for myself as well as grow my regard for the people around me… That’s all.

People are amazing, adaptable, intelligent and in most instances, very spiritual. I’ve met with all faiths, even those who do not lean towards any higher power in enduring this life experience.

Some are at peace, others are troubled; yet, in the uncountable tones of perspectives I have heard from the many that have communed with me, no consequence can be placed. For in all there is one sum desire to purely be accepted, to be loved, to have the basic securities that all humankind deserves, and to feel safe and assured that they are OK in who they are, and in where they live.

Basically, a common want to trust and to be trusted, and it is this universal theme that is, like the finest cream, rising to the surface of my findings. In it, another latent bullet point to Pamela’s question comes to mind. “I have learned the true meaning of tolerance. It has not been an easy lesson, and it has been one that I am sure will consume the remainder of my time on Planet Earth.”

Tolerance is hard-earned, and to master it (and I assure you, I am nowhere near master level), we have to bear the chest tightening of looking at ourselves in questioning why we react in a particular manner, or from where have I drawn this opinion? Nine times out of ten, the answering finger points back at ourselves, confirming the need to not place any self concluded perspectives, or worse judgments, before we know the whole picture… or at minimum, the character of the one we are profiling. Yes, an extremely difficult premise to wholly own, and one that through time, I promise, does get easier.

I guess in a way, I am putting my money where my mouth is in walking this 365 path. Had no idea at it inception, I would be talking the way I do now. And, on this trail of discovery, I continue to invite you to join me. For I’m only one little voice on a larger and diverse planet. But, at least, my prayer is constant, “That we may all do our part to reframe any negative feelings we may harbor towards one another until we have examined the whole story and have carefully looked into the eyes of those we a pointing at. This is core to the understanding of true tolerance.

In background Pamela’s husband donates time to teach martial arts to teens.

Pamela has a loving spirit about her, one that grabs my attention after spending a few minutes away from the previously skeptically accepting conversations. Her first words in responding to our 365 questions reveal why the very air around her is comforting.

“All I can do is speak from my heart, and from where God has placed me in the last couple of days…” Pamela happily states, “…is that for those who are believers to literally be the salt of the Earth… and to be a light to all around them. To realize that everywhere we go, we are either salting the Earth or are a brightening it. And, we don’t want to be the salt that looses its flavor or to the person who turn out the light.”

True, Pamela is a Christian, a faith that, as do many other faiths, focuses on good deeds toward fellow-man, and in acceptance of a loving God. But also, a faith that due to the zealousness of many a not so inspired evangelist, can at times be polluted with a not so loving outlook. In my opinion, none of us are damned. There is a loving God, who knows us, who understands us and one that desires the best for all of us, no matter what our circumstances.

Pamela elaborates, “The truth is love, that is what God is. If we are angry all the time… or mean… or disrespectful… it passes on. We need to watch how we live… That’s all…

…My advice… Live and walk in love. And find out what true love is by knowing the creator of love.”

“What do you see in the future?” I inquire of Pamela.

As do many, she pauses to reflect. “Not one year from now… I don’t really want to put a time frame on it. But if I had to, I would say that within ten, twenty years, if we continue on the path as far as where we are now, as far as society, as far as being introverted, as far as being so consumed in technology, in not really communicating, in not building face to face relationships, and in not loving; it will speed up the process of our society not being how this country was founded. It hurts to see that there’s no sense of family, there’s no sense of relationships anymore. People communicate through text… and that just irritates me.

For those who don’t believe in God, I ask them to really listen. He shows himself to everyone in everything. If there is a question in your heart, I encourage you to really seek, to really look for it before you discount it, because it is really life changing.”

She adds a pet peeve, “If our schools, if our society, if our government don’t put an effort into really loving, and caring for, and pouring into our children… who are our future… it will destroy our country in comparison to what other countries are doing with their education systems. We are building more prisons, and we are closing more schools. We need to give back… that is important to me!

On a personal level… we all need, especially mother’s, to seize every opportunity to be the one’s who are pouring values and morals into our children. Like trying to find ways to not always have to send them to a babysitter, or to think that the school system will teach them values. This is where we do our part to build the core foundation for our future. We need to not worry so much about things like having to keep the house clean all the time, if it leads towards ignoring our kids. They are a gift… we love them, we need to cherish them.”