As I was walking out of the local Home Depot with a cart full of paint-the-front-porch supplies, I passed a man going in who looked for all the world like Russell M. Nelson. My first impulse was to run over and introduce myself to him, to thank him for his service and for being such an inspiration to me and so many others, but logically I knew it wasn’t him. I don’t know if President Nelson shops at Home Depot, but, if he does, it’s not on this side of the Mississippi River, so Spuds and I kept walking towards our car.
While we were walking, pushing the cart, I began thinking about how the man I’d just seen, though he wasn’t a renowned heart surgeon or apostle of the Lord, was still a child of God. We weren’t really parked that far back in the parking lot, but all of these thoughts just kind of washed over me and into me in a matter of seconds, so I pondered the divinity within that anonymous elderly stranger and thought how wonderful it would be if we all could recognize that in everyone we meet. I have no idea who that man was, what he has or hasn’t done in or with his life, or anything else about him, but why should that mean I shouldn’t feel privileged to meet him, to shake his hand? Can you imagine what kind of world it would be if we all greeted one another with a sense of awe and gratitude just because we are getting the chance to meet another child of God? President Nelson probably gets special, effusive greetings from strangers on a regular basis, and I’m sure that bolsters him. What if we all got sincerely effusive greetings, whether from strangers in a parking lot or at times of formal introduction? What if we all met each other as if we were meeting an apostle (or a celebrity, if you’re not into religion)? I can only imagine how we could bolster each other through such sincere appreciation for . . . each other. I mean, I’m not saying I should have chased the old dude down and fawned all over him or anything — there are limits of social acceptability and all that — but if, within the limits of what is sane and acceptable, we all greeted each other warmly, in a way that made the other person feel special, important, noticed . . . how amazing would that be?
Very Deep Thoughts to be having in a Home Depot parking lot, but the conviction swept over me to approach each new person I meet with a least a little bit of that awe and gratitude, a little more recognition that I was meeting a child of God, a little more effort towards helping each person feel their importance. “Why don’t I already do this???” I wondered to myself.
Then I heard, “Hey,” from a bit of a distance.
I came out of my Very Deep Thoughts to see an unkempt man standing behind the car parked next to mine, but almost standing behind my car. He and his clothes, beard, and hair looked unwashed, his eyes were glassy and his expression hard to read, and he was standing in place but shifting his weight back and forth, swaying from side to side a bit while smoking a . . . what was it? Do vape pens come with attached boxes? I really have no idea, but the smoke seemed to have no smell. We had been walking down the wrong row and had just barely turned toward the proper one when his,”hey” came from that row over, so I initially assumed it had been directed at someone else.
Again he said, “Hey,” and I realized he might be talking to us. I smiled but said nothing, because I didn’t feel like shouting across the parking lot, and I still wasn’t sure if he was greeting me and Spuds. As we entered the correct row of cars and were halfway across it, again, “Hey,” but he didn’t move away from my car, even though we were clearly approaching it.
I said hi, but was getting a thoroughly creepy vibe from this man who was swaying and smoking from some mystery apparatus and standing so close to the back end of my car that I knew he’d be able to reach out and grab one or the other of us as we loaded our supplies in the trunk.
At the moment I thought we were getting too close to what could be a dangerous situation, my phone rang. I gestured to Spuds to get into the car on the passenger side, the side furthest from Mr. Hey, while taking to Midge about whatever it was she needed to talk about and trying to make it sound like I was talking to an adult. I loaded the car quickly and then smiled at Mr. Hey as I looked directly at him and squeezed by to get to my door, praying that he wasn’t going to let go of his smoking device and sway in to grab me.
After getting in safely, locking the door, and getting off the phone, I realized two things in slow succession:
- I’d just failed at my brand new resolution to meet/greet new people as if they were amazing and it was my privilege — what kind of awful person am I that I can’t hold on to a goal for, like, five seconds??? That man was/is a child of God, too!
- There are very real reasons why I haven’t been doing this it’s-my-privilege-to-meet-you stuff already, and, child of God though he may be, his glassy-eyed swaying with no sense of boundaries and appropriate space was creepy. Maybe I failed at my resolution, but maybe I succeeded at keeping my kid and myself safe.
My resolution isn’t dead, but I’m also not going to stop listening to my Spidey Sense. I wish I didn’t have to.