I was commuting in from Vashon several Monday mornings ago. It was a warm, beautiful morning and I got
placed on the very back of the upper deck pointing uphill on the ramp. Anyone who does a ferry commute knows that is one of the worst spots. It is too difficult to be comfortable on the incline and hardened island commuters do not go up on deck without a very good reason. So I sat on the incline, eating breakfast, as I do every morning on my way to work, with my windows open. I listen to sports radio if the Mariners win and music if they don't. I listen to a lot of music. A ferry worker stopped and asked me a question about my car.
We talked and he told me about cars he had owned and his boat. He told me about living on his boat and how expensive the Vashon marina would be to moor his boat at. He told me about his wife. They had bought the boat together. It was quickly clear that she was gone now. He told me later that she had died of cancer 7 years or so ago. He knows, as part of his being, that he will see her again. He was such a nice man. He has literally directed me hundreds of times on the boats and we have never spoken. We acknowledged each other for a few days after but are now back into our usual roles. I am a faceless commuter. He's the worker directing me. Eye contact is not made. It is ok to go back to our roles. We both have our days to manage and get through.
We bonded for that point in time - two guys talking cars. He had a story. Everyone has a story and everyone wants to tell their story. Everyone has sadness and strife. The worry in the others around us is unknowable. It is knowable that it is happening. A wise man said once, "When you meet a person, treat him or her as if they are in trouble. You will be right more often than you are wrong."
A few weekends ago, we held our clinic management retreat. Sarah, Kas, Johana, Andrea, Beth and I met and talked about our parts of the clinic. We talked about this very issue and we watched a short video together from the Cleveland clinic called "If we could see inside others' hearts". It is profound and a real tear-jerker. Watch it if you have a minute.
It makes one want to vow to cut people some slack, make eye contact, say good morning, thank you, and you're welcome, and try not to take it personally when someone is difficult or unpleasant. Everyone has their stuff.