My Neighbor, Myself

The reward of reaching out to strangers

I am one of those people who tends to attract crazy folks on the street. I make the mistake of making eye contact and being present as they babble about the voices in their head. I am still interested in my fellow humans after all these years of disappointment.

On Tuesday, as I was about to enter a grocery store, a woman came toward me burdened by her grocery bags and a cane. She was unsteady on her feet, well-dressed and skinny, like me, pinched face looking down, shoulders hunched forward as if she carried the weight of the world. I asked her if I could help her with her groceries, and at first, she said no.

I asked her if she was sure and she began to cry, still walking forward on legs that barely carried her. I joined her, and we moved toward her car. I listened as we walked and her pain, her grief, her trauma and her pasted-together self came spilling out. I had read about her family’s suffering in the Bohemian. Her pain was and is very real. Her story needs airing because it is her painful reality, tangible and the heart a family’s grief, not just the facts.

I breathed and I listened and I offered a present, loving few moments of time. It did not take that much of me to offer compassion, understanding, presence or kindness to a stranger in my path. She needed someone, just someone in her community to listen. Just that.

Listen and witness and offer kindness. A human connection without iPads, iPhones, emails, texts or any other distractions. Simple and loving.

If we’re here together, in this moment, in this community and we cannot just look up and get off the damn phone, why are we even bothering to leave the house? I am honored to have crossed paths with someone for whom I could offer and receive the truth of human suffering with genuine concern. My neighbor, myself.

Get off the phone, look up, and offer help. You’ll be amazed how good that feels.

Molly Wolf is a dog walker, runner, writer and seeker living in Santa Rosa.

Open Mic is a weekly op/ed feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].

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