Usually when I write it’s about antagonistic parking garage gates or annoying lemonade stand proprietors because that’s my jet-setting kind of life. My goal in relaying these trivial tales is to make you the reader hysterically laugh, or at least begrudgingly smile. (Like you just did, right? Don’t tell me you’re not smiling right now because I know you are!)

However, this is a different kind of blog post.

A woman died in my apartment complex last week. I can’t claim close ties with her just to milk the drama out of the circumstance, but we did exchange hellos whenever I would pass this woman in our courtyard. Her exact age I don’t know, but I would safely bet that she was probably pushing eighty. The two things I can recall about her are 1) a loss of hearing that caused her to talk a few decibels too loudly even when I was standing just inches away and 2) her fondness for baby blue eye shadow. I was fond of it myself. She was one of those ladies who refused to leave the house not looking like a lady. Every time I saw her she had her hair did and makeup on.

Suffice it to say that I was truly upset by the news of her death. She lived by herself, had no next of kin and it wasn’t immediately known that she had passed. I live next door to her church, and it was only her absence from services last Sunday that suggested perhaps something was wrong. It was.

And it got me to thinking…

I’ve had loved ones pass away, but this was very much a different scenario for me; her death while sad wasn’t nearly as distressing as the circumstances of her life. No family? No close friends? How can you be on this earth for so long and seemingly have so little to show for it? Yet I know this can’t be true. I have no details about this woman’s life or who was a part of it, but at the very least she had affected my life because here I was thinking about it. Initially her passing made me pray that I wouldn’t end up like that in another fifty years. Terrible, but true. After some time, it then made me think about how the dead always seem to have such a strong effect on the living. Kind of ironic.

Though in truth, we affect each other all the time while being very much still alive. We just don’t think about it as often. I don’t mean the big moments like a wedding proposal or pregnancy announcement; of course those occasions have a resounding ripple effect on multiple lives. I’m talking about the little things. Those instances that we may never consciously note in our minds. Allow me the following example.

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with a friend in Starbucks. We hadn’t chatted in a while and were getting each other up to date with what had been going on in our lives for the last several months. It was nice. After about a half-hour, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Barista: “Could you please keep it down?”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry! Was someone complaining?”

Barista: “No, but you’re getting a little loud.”

He got his wish. I was stunned silent.

Now for the record, I know my voice carries. I call it exuberance; others call it loud. (Especially my laugh.) The topic is already a sensitive one for me, and Barista Bully had just thrown a big ole spotlight on it. I couldn’t believe it; no one had said anything, yet he still felt compelled to publicly scold me? Obviously I haven’t gotten over the incident and have not since returned to that Starbucks. (It’s the closest one to me, too!)

I doubt that Barista Bully knew his remark would cut so deeply, but that’s my point. Day in and day out, we do and say things that mean nothing to us. Yet to the person on the receiving end of that look or remark, it can mean quite a bit.

Rewind to my junior high graduation. I was selected to give a speech that night but was deathly afraid of doing so. This wasn’t just an extreme case of glossophobia, though. A year earlier, I had fainted while attempting to explain my seventh grade science fair project to my teacher and two-dozen classmates… So yeah, I was nervous for good reason. I waited for my cue like a death row inmate waits for the injection needle; it was agony. My sweaty palms had warped my note cards, and I was certain that within moments I would be humiliating myself in front of my entire school.

Next to me sat D. A schoolmate since grade school, she was one of those exuberant types herself, always happy and smiling. Apparently she was also the observant type. Without saying a word, D reached over and grabbed my hand. She squeezed it. Hard. She didn’t let go. Words can’t express the wave of relief and gratitude that washed over me in that moment, and while her gesture didn’t completely erase my anxiety, it was enough. More than enough. I got through the speech without losing consciousness, so that’s at least something. And guess what? Twenty years later I’m still thinking about D and her act of kindness.

So that’s about it. I hope my neighbor is somewhere nice; perhaps heaven has a beauty salon or at least a makeup counter with free samples. I think that would make her happy. And even though you and I are still battling the daily grind we call life, let’s try to make each other happy, too.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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8 Responses to “Invisible Touch”

I appreciated your insightful post. You motivated me to look for more opportunities to encourage others with kind words.

September 8th, 2011

Beautiful post! I totally feel the same way. That’s why if I ever win an award. Cough. Best original screenplay. Cough. I plan on thanking everyone I have ever met and will meet in my life because that have all effect me in some way or another.

September 9th, 2011

Shannon, thank you so much for the lovely comment! And if I may, you already are an amazing example of how to treat others with lovingkindness. 🙂

September 9th, 2011

Thanks, Robb! And dude, I can’t wait! I will be watching with glee as you make that 48 hour acceptance speech. 😉

September 9th, 2011

F*ck that barista. I say we go back to that place have a good old time and when he comes over to tell us to keep it down I throw a roll of quarter into his face, a tip for HIM to shut the hell up and let us do what we want if we buy a $5 dollar coffee!

September 13th, 2011

OMG! You are my HERO! I love it! 🙂

September 13th, 2011

Beautiful post girl! There was a 80+ year old lady who lived below us at out last apartment complex and I always think of her now and again. Even though she would feed the stray cats and blast her TV so loudly I always knew when she was watching Wheel of Fortune, it was comforting to know that she was around 🙂

September 17th, 2011

I love that story, Amy! And I totally know what you mean… It’s really amazing how the most disparate people can affect our lives. 🙂

September 18th, 2011