Small Moments

The library houses a unique cast of characters, doesn’t it?  Ours is no different.

When I walked into our main library this morning with Chipmunk and LP in tow, I remembered how much I like libraries.  If I’m paying attention, people are full of interesting detail.  When we walked into the reference room there was an old retiree, he was carefully photocopying some pages out of a medical dictionary.  He wore a jade pendant on his neck and had a single skull dangling from his ear.  There was a woman who was typing on a computer with only her two index fingers, cursing under her breath.  There was a young teenager with headphones on, reading the Atlantic.  The stuff I could hear from his headphones sounded distinctly like Easy-E.  Hm.

Then there was me.  Mom in tatty jeans with baby in a sling, photocopying a book while telling her toddler to stop playing with the drinking fountain.

While I was at the photocopier, a man came in, clearly agitated.  He had on tattered clothes, didn’t smell so fresh, and was muttering and cursing about his plans to beat someone up.  It seemed clear that someone had made him angry, but he didn’t actually look dangerous to me.  Still, everyone became uncomfortable.  Everyone watched him sideways and would avert their eyes if he seemed like he was going to go towards them.  We all refused to engage, simply waiting for him to peter out or go away.

This went on for about ten minutes, while the man wandered and muttered.  Chipmunk watched him closely, with a very dispassionate air.  She seemed unconcerned with his cursing or clothes.

So there we all were, looking but not looking, and Chipmunk, bless her little self, finally just broke the silence.

“Why that man so fustarated?  Maybe he need do some dwawing.”

The man turned around and I paused.  My initial impulse was to look away or apologize, but Chipmunk just kept staring right at him.

“Here!”  She cheerfully went to retrieve one of those small library pencils, and pushed her piece of paper over to him.

He paused, looked angry, looked confused, then nothing.

“Nah, little girl.  Thanks though.”

And with that, the man stopped his muttering and sat down to wait for the reference librarian to return.  Everyone went back to their business.  I don’t know what had really happened to that man, nor what happened to him after we all parted ways.  I hope that small moment was good for him.  It was good for us.

I can’t help but wonder, what would happen if we really looked into a stranger’s eyes when we spoke?  Really contemplated what others were feeling, no matter how brief a moment that was.  I’m so guilty of rushing and assuming, being a bystander rather than an agent of change.  I try to slow down, I try to connect through the small and big moments, but still, it is easy to forget.

Ironically, my usually self-centered two-year-old was the one who reminded me of this today.  Thanks, sweetie.

Then, I spoiled her and let her have a donut hole.

Then, I spoiled her and let her have a donut hole.

17 Comments on “Small Moments”

  1. Holly F. says:

    I got chills! Her simple act of kindness caused ripples.

  2. Miriam says:

    What a sweet story. It is so hard to know what is going on with people- and whether getting involved is a good or a bad thing. I’m glad that your daughter had a good experience :-)
    I love libraries… they’re my favorite places in the world.

    • jisun says:

      Yes, I thought about this as well, it could have gone many different ways. I think at heart though, I appreciate her interaction for her complete lack of pretense, you know? No pressure either way. When he didn’t want to draw, she kind of just shrugged her shoulders and moved on. And really, it didn’t really matter what was going on in the background for him, it was pretty immaterial to her, and I kind of loved that. :)

  3. AK says:

    The guy knew his stuff. Encounters with adorable toddlers are much better than with any adult. Kids don’t have inhibitions, and she is already compassionate.

  4. Heather Bradley says:

    Love this post! This has been something I have been thinking about lately. We could all take a lesson from your daughter. I am usually too self focused to take the time to try to connect with people in which I might not have much in common. Being an introvert, it makes it extra difficult. I definitely need to do better. :)

    • jisun says:

      I try to remind myself that connection isn’t always engagement. Human connection can come in many ways and sometimes it is just purposeful action, or giving someone space. I’m an introvert as well, it is a work in progress!

  5. Lisa says:

    “I’m so guilty of rushing and assuming, being a bystander rather than an agent of change.”

    Yes. I feel this way, too.

    Recently, I ran to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things. Outside, lying on the sidewalk, was an elderly homeless man. Everyone was just walking right by him, refusing to take notice. I realized that, despite all my talk, that’s usually exactly what I do – just walk on by. This time, instead, I went inside and got the things I needed to get, and I also bought a large deli sandwich, some fruit, and a bottle of cold lemonade. I left the store and approached the old man, who was still lying there. I felt uncomfortable, and that made me feel ashamed. “Sir?” I said. “Yeah.” he grumbled. He may have been drunk, I don’t know. Or maybe sick – who knows? “Here’s something for you to eat.” “Thank you,” he said. I left the bag of food next to him and went home. I didn’t even feel very good about the whole encounter. It felt futile in a way. But mostly, I just felt ashamed at how hard it was for me to do that – to help a fellow human being – and how many times I’ve just averted my eyes and gone on my way.

    • jisun says:

      I really struggle with this, because I think if I’m honest, really being more present in the moment like this would require a profound life change. Maybe I’m too scared to make it happen, or I’m not capable. Not sure.

      I think I’d feel similarly conflicted just like you did after trying to help that man. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have done it though, right? (Or that is at least how I reason it in my head…)

  6. modernmessy says:

    So sweet! You are clearly leading by example, whether you realize or not. I know kids are innately sweet and often notice things we don’t, but I think you’re allowed to take a little credit for her being observant. Open your eyes! I always tell my kids. I think it will take them more than 25 years to learn that lesson, just like it did for me. Your gal is ahead of the game!

    • jisun says:

      Thank you! :) I really do think that we “unlearn” some things in adulthood that we could stand to hold onto. Too busy with the day to day, you know?

  7. Diane says:

    I’m learning this very slowly. Don’t assume and don’t judge. What a sweet and smart girl you have. She clearly takes after her mama! ;)

  8. Jenny says:

    This was so sweet to read :)

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