SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 46: “Ten Minutes Of Photography, Two-Hours Of Humanity.”

Antoinette, 30 year veteran teacher to our California youth

You’re in the passenger seat with me. We’re cruising through suburbia and into the corner shopping center. Radio is on and we’re chilling to the tunes. Suddenly the music becomes silent. How can this be, we still hear volume, yet nothing is going in to our minds?

What’s up with this? two seconds ago it was a musical feast!

As if on auto pilot, we find ourselves being tugged by intuition towards two figures talking in front of the corner laundromat. The closer we get the smaller our musical background becomes.

We pull into a parking slip, just feet in front of them. We disengage the motor. As the silence grows, two incredibly interesting looking people take hold of our focus. With no pause our sub-conscience tugs us out of the car and drives us toward them. Well rehearsed now, we do the 365 pitch and get quickly rejected.

Yet even with the rejection, the conversation continues. We are smitten with the moment and the depth of character of our new acquaintances will not let go of our interest. At this point, who cares if we do, or do not, take photographs. “These people are amazing!”

“I’ll take it from here.”

To begin, let me introduce you to Antoinette, a very humble lady with 30 years of working in education, and the magnet that first catches my eye.

I sight her as she leans against the front window of the laundry establishment, child grandson at her side. At first it is uncertain to me as to how well she knows her confident, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Boal.

But as I settle in to becoming part of the conversation, it rapidly becomes apparent that I have unintentionally wandered into a chance exchange between two individuals with dramatically different life experiences. What is captivating is the connection of humanity between them. I am taken in; there is no way I can change the path.

Antoinette, with great compassion, is mostly listening, later telling me of her empathy towards the Lieutenant Colonel, a Vietnam Veteran.

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Boal, Vietnam Veteran, Man of Raw Wisdom

“You’ve got to visit back tomorrow, when I’ll have much more time to fully introduce you to him.”

Have you ever been with people who, just by only being in their presence, make you feel good about yourself. If so, you already have an idea of what spending time with Antoinette is like.

We speak of faith and patience in our fellow-man. Something she has learned through her 30 years of working in elementary education as a teacher’s assistant. Antoinette exudes a motherly spirit and one can feel her real concern for the people around her. I see this in the way she treats our Veteran friend Kevin, even comforting him at moments that I am overwhelmed by his stories.

I can tell this lady is special, a healer of sorts with great faith. An admitted Christian, she explains that is the source of her patience, inspiration and compassion for the world around her, “I’m a believer in Christ, I’m not perfect, but doing my best to be a good person.” She is the kind of person that sets a life tone worthy of mirroring. I’ll take heed to her example.

I ask her to share her council. Simple reply, “Everything is so fast paced now, you must have patience with yourself and those around you.”

This is a night of patience for me. A workshop of sort in unconditional acceptance and in listening, led by two masters of life, Antoinette and Kevin.

All in all, I spend over two hours communing with my laundromat friends. We talk of many things, with much of the time being monopolized by Kevin. No regrets from either Antoinette or myself. He is fascinating and filled with hard-earned wisdom.

So much so, that it is necessary to save telling you about him for tomorrows entry. Though this is a slight diversion from one stranger every night, it is the only way to give him fair representation and in keeping my blog entry to an acceptable word count.

It only took me 5 minutes to find my place this evening. It has been captivating, uplifting and at times a little scary, some back alley stuff I’ll talk about tomorrow.

All in all, I experience one more tutorial in reaching out.

My findings: “We all have stories, some dark, others not. But in the end, “it’s all good!”

My take away from a spur of the moment visit to a local cleaning establishment. “Ten minutes of photography, two-hours of humanity.”