One encounter, one chance

7 Oct

This past weekend, I volunteered for a few shifts for my Cloquet Rotary Club’s annual rose sale days. The first day, I was in the foyer of Cloquet’s L&M Fleet Supply, a hardware and home & farm supply type place.  Like our other fund raising activities, proceeds from the rose sales go toward the various charitable service efforts our club supports, whether sponsoring youth for our RYLA  leadership camp, purchasing backpacks and school supplies for kids from area low income families or supporting polio vaccinations or well digging in other countries. That’s my Rotary plug. It’s great stuff; service above self.

As if being at a large folding table with bouquets of roses displayed wasn’t enough presence, I’d greet people and affirm that they could certainly purchase some roses at a great price. At one point I delivered my message to an older man leaving the store. He was as stereotypical Cloquet older guy: red plaid jacket (it was a tad chilly and snowing last Friday, October 3!), brimmed cap, very possibly a retired paper mill worker. When I presented the rose offer to him, he replied, “I got no one to give them to; my wife passed on.” His face showed emotion, his voice caught in his throat when he said it.

I froze for a moment. Felt like I might have put my foot in my mouth. My heart went out to him, and I thought that I should give him a single rose and say something, maybe saying he deserved one, or one to remember his wife by. As those multiple thoughts, feelings and possible words swirled inside my head and heart, he bolted out the door. I was alone, I hesitated. Too long. I glanced at my money bag, glanced to see who else was around, grabbed the bag and a rose, and headed out the door.

Where did he go? I could not seem him, either walking or in any nearby vehicle. He was gone. A ghost. He and the moment were gone.

For the rest of that shift, that interaction and lost opportunity disturbed me. My head and heart had told me to do something, say something, and I didn’t. One encounter, one chance.

At the RYLA leadership camp I referenced (and linked to) above, we’ve had one presenter who shares about he and his wife losing their teenage son and how so many people avoided them because they didn’t know what to say. He talks of how one couple of friends, rather than avoid their aisle in the grocery store as many other did, saw them, raced down the aisle, embraced them, and simply said how sorry they were. The message that comes across is that we should not take people and situations for granted, and not miss opportunities to reach out to others, to touch others, even in small ways. Let them know we value them, appreciate them, care for them, love them.

Most of us don’t do that nearly often enough, with family members, with friends, to co-workers and colleagues, and definitely to strangers. Yet, we all have opportunities each day to get out of our own heads and hearts and simply reach out and touch someone (those old Bell Phone commercials had it right). In that foyer, I was stuck in my own head and heart, easy places to get stuck, but it does nothing to nurture or heal, to build or connect, to support or affirm, to make someone’s day or give them just what they needed at that moment.

It can be reaching out in a moment of hurt or challenge. It can be appreciation of someone’s presence or contribution. It can be validating someone in any number of ways or for any number of reasons. It can be the smallest of compliments or acknowledgements, and can often mean the world to someone. Face it, none of us really gets enough of those. We all like to be complimented and validated, and it only happens when people — we — do it. Sometimes we get that chance every day; other times only once.

At camp RYLA we also send campers out into public to simply give people a rose and say whatever they want; it’s usually very little, nothing more than, “I’d like to give you a rose today.” Responses cover the gamut, but are never negative: a surprised chuckle from a gardener, a smiling thank-you from a delivery truck driver, tears from a store clerk. Sometimes it leads to a conversation, sometimes it’s just a simple thanks. As small an act as it seems, it often makes someone’s day.

One encounter, one chance. Ichi-go, ichi-e. I practice Korean martial arts, including Korean sword arts, but I’m familiar with that Japanese expression. I came across it in writing related to both sword arts and flower arranging. When testing a sword, one chance to execute a proper cut, completing the cut, not damaging the blade on bone. In flower arranging, one chance to bend a stem or branch to the proper degree: too light a touch, it springs back straight; too heavy a touch, it snaps. One chance to get it right.

Every individual instance is one chance. We need to see more of our life encounters that way, particularly those that instill value into lives and relationships, that build others up and support them, that validate or heal. The world needs more of that. I missed my chance at L&M Supply. I miss them every day. I need to test my sword (figuratively) more often. And carry a rose (literally). A blade. A stem. One encounter, once chance.

Rose On Wood BW


And like it says below, I’d really appreciate if you’d share this! 😉

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