I had a lovely morning coffee meeting today with a retired gentleman. He was a gallant gentleman. He stood up when I approached the table where he sat waiting. He shook my hand in both of his hands. I sat my bag down next to my chair and placed my black binder on the table before I moved to go to the counter to order my mocha. He was immediately up and out of his seat again. He wanted to buy my coffee. I wouldn’t allow it. I had invited him to meet me. I wanted a mocha (really, really badly!) and I couldn’t expect him to pay $6 for my indulgence. We bandied back and forth over it for a moment until I put my hand on his arm and told him that I insisted on buying my own mocha. We got our business discussion out of the way immediately, and then we settled in to a lively discussion about travel, Italy, architecture, and historic preservation. I thoroughly enjoyed his company, and I smiled as I drove back to my office.
I was still happy and excited as I sat down behind my desk. I had asked the man to volunteer his professional services and serve on a committee. He is a retired architect, and his knowledge will be such an asset to the committee, but that isn’t why I was so happy to have made the connection with this gentleman. He may not know it, but our gentle conversation this morning helped me in a way that he would never understand.
Being treated with kindness and respect is something that meant more to me than his willingness to assist me by serving as a volunteer. These past few years have been difficult, and I have been stripped of my trust in my fellow man. I am like an abused dog at the animal shelter. You know the one. The little guy who cowers in the back. All the other dogs horn in and grab the food first. She doesn’t step up to the cage when people come in looking for a pet. She hangs back. She is wary. She doesn’t know whether the hand reaching out towards her is going to hit her or pat her on the head. She startles easily. She doesn’t like loud noises, because LOUD reminds her of yelling. I am that scared little dog in the back of the cage. It is not impossible to turn that poor little dog around. All she needs is consistency. She needs to be removed from the situation that caused the distress. She needs to be around people who are kind and gentle. She needs to learn to trust again.
Late this afternoon, I sent the kind gentleman an email thanking him for taking time out of his day to meet me for coffee. I thanked him for agreeing to assist me as a volunteer. I told him how much I enjoyed our conversation and told him that I would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with him anytime he would like some company. Before you get the wrong impression, this man was elderly. There was NO possibility of mixed signals! I simply enjoyed his company, his intelligence, and most of all, his kindness.
While I was able to send him a simple follow-up thank you email, I was not able to tell him how much it meant to me to connect with a good human being or that he helped in some small way bring me closer to the front of my cage.