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The Joy of Engaging

On Saturday Jeremy and I went on a midday date to Half Priced books. It's one of my favorite dates. We always stop by Starbucks for coffee first and when we arrive we separate for a half-hour or so as each of us looks for our own treasures. Then we meet up and discuss the fun books we've discovered. For an introvert, like me, it's perfect! I get a spend time with my most favorite person in the world and I get a the chance to get lost in my own thoughts for awhile. Last week, was packed full of people, good people who I love dearly, but people all the same. I was really looking forward to being alone in a tiny aisle full of books.

After being there for less then five minutes though I got interrupted. An elderly gentleman asked me if I knew where they kept the children's history books.

picture via foter

As I showed him he started talking about his granddaughter and how she loves history, "she's a prodigy"! I love children's books and history so I went the extra mile gave him a few suggestions. Then he started to tell me about how he used to be a social studies teacher and how he missed his students. He was polite and asked if I had children, I was polite and answered. He was kind and interesting...but I wanted to be alone! I had plans and he was interfering. As we talked for 5...10...15 minutes I kept thinking of polite ways to excuse myself..."why was I wasting my time talking to this man, someone I  didn't even know!" He, however, was engaging. You could tell that he truly loved being a teacher and that he had done it well and for all the right reasons. 

He had a stroke and started apologizing to me about his lack of language skills. I told him, honestly,  that I hadn't noticed, he was very articulate. Then he shared with me his love for his wife. How having a stroke and watching the way she had nursed him back to health had taught him so much about love. How he was so thankful they'd stuck it out even though there were times it was hard. We figured out that they'd been married for 49 years. 

Then his wife showed up (she'd been at a nearby craft store) and I got to meet this women he had spoken so fondly of. At first, I had regretted engaging this man in conversation but it had left me encouraged. Seeing him and his wife together, knowing a bit of their story, was such blessing to me. He was inspiring, he made me treasure my husband and my children even more. 

I was thinking this as he walked away. Then he turned back and told me that he thought I was a really special person. That most people never take the time to talk to him, they never ask him questions. He wasn't sure if it was because of his age or because of his stroke but most people don't engage. His smile was so warm, as he thanked me for fifteen minutes of my time! I was all the sudden very grateful that I hadn't found a 'polite' way to excuse myself. I was also convicted about how often I go about my days closing myself off to the people around me. I'm not rude, but a lot of time, if somebody doesn't look like my type of person (age, style, class, etc) I pay them no attention. I wonder how many encouraging conversations I've missed out on because I was too preoccupied and oblivious.

Here's hoping that despite my introverted nature this lesson sticks. That I remember that people not tasks or schedules (or books) are what matters most and what brings the most joy. 

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