She came in to schedule my next appointment, but in our few minutes we gained much more than I expected.
“Hello” she said from behind the mask, as she sat down and began the search for dates on the screen. “I’m going to schedule your next appointment… are you okay with scheduling it for next year?” “Yes, of course,” I said.
My mind began to wander, sitting there in that tiny office. I began to think about the things we had in common. Her soft tone of voice maybe. Her height. We were here in this small doctor’s office and the feeling of wanting to say something more began to overwhelm my thoughts.
“I love your earrings,” I finally said. “Oh, thank you… the flower of life,” she shared politely as she raised one hand to touch her right earring. “The flower of life?” I asked. She took a moment to explained the significance behind the design, its geometric pattern, and symbolism. I’d not heard of it before and it was a fascinating moment of learning.
“I’m not a big jewelry person, but your wooden earrings and that pattern are beautiful,“ I shared. “I got them online… Amazon,” she said. “Oh… well, that’s easy. Thank you. I’ll have to look for them,” I responded.
Then, we were silent.
She continued looking at the screen and I sat waiting quiet once again. I began to think hard. The earrings were beautiful. In fact, I decided at that moment to order a pair for myself, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to talk about. I looked down at my hands and I thought about the book I held, the books I would read, our masks, the riots, the protests, the movement, and the hurt… so much hurt.
I wanted to say something, something more than talking about earrings. I wanted to reach out and ask her how she was… How she was working through things. I wondered if she had children. What do you say to children? What did I say to my own sons? I wanted to hear from her what she thought. I could have just sat and waited without much else. I could have kept to myself, taken my appointment date, and walked out. Sometimes it can seem easier to pretend everything is okay and go about as usual, but I didn’t.
“Can I ask...“ my words clumsily fell out and she looked up at me. I took a breath and gently tried again. “Can I ask... what you think about what’s been going on?” I didn’t offer a clear topic. The conversation could have gone to the virus. My words, this question, was meant more as an invitation for a conversation. I didn’t know what she’d say or how she would respond. We were strangers.
“It’s been hard,” she answered. “I don’t… I don’t watch the news… I make a point of not watching the news,” her shoulders relaxed a bit and she continued, “I learned a long time ago that what happens on the news causes me to become depressed, so I have to protect myself from that,” she admitted.
And for the next few minutes, we talked. We talked deeply and honestly. She shared about herself, her experiences with racism, her tears, her children and how she warns them. She ended with, “something has to change,” and then she thanked me. “I really enjoyed our conversation… thank you,” she said to me as I got up to leave. “I did too… thank you for talking with me,” I smiled, nodded, and then I walked out the door, down the hall, and out of the building.
We were strangers, but somehow it felt healing for us to talk and that was so much more than I expected. As I made my way through the parking lot, I wondered how she came to feel safe enough to talk with me with such honesty. It felt good to connect with another human being. I took a slow and deep breath and felt grateful.