Monday, April 25, 2011

Joy Through Vulnerability

*Image courtesy of Mandeep Flora*

We had a very enjoyable long weekend. Today, I have a story to share about something that happened to me this weekend.

I left the house early Friday morning to pick up my children from my sister's house. As I left my house with coffee in hand I thought to myself, I don't need anything, I'm just running over to my sister's to pick up the kids and then coming home. As I drove down my street, I remembered that I needed gas. The gas station at the bottom of my road wouldn't be open this early so I figured that I'd just pull off the highway part way there and fill up on the way. I pulled into the gas station 20 minutes into my trip (about halfway there) and, no wallet, no money and not enough gas to get to my sister's house or to return home. What to do, what to do?

So at this point, I'm frustrated at myself for being such a space cadet! How could I have been so foolish!? I decide to drive a bit further to an exit near a friend's house. If worse comes to worst, maybe she can come by and help me out of my bind. I pull into a gas station and look for money to make a phone call. I search all over the car and I'm ten cents short.

So, I place a collect call to my husband. He is really patient with me which surprises me because this sort of thing happens more often than it should. I tell Johnny I'll call him back in ten minutes while he phones our friend and my sister to find a solution to my predicament.

Ten minutes later, I phone back and he explains that he's called the gas station where I am and they are willing to give me $10 in gas. With my tail between my legs I explain to the man behind the counter that I am the fool who left home with no gas and no money and he lets me know that I can have $10 worth of gas. I thank him and let him know that I will return shortly to pay him back. He nods his head and I sense that he's not confident that I will return, but that he's willing to be kind to me whether I pay him back or not. Although I feel awkward about having to take the gas, my heart is warmed by his gesture of kindness.

I put $9.99 worth of gas in my car, waved to him through the window and drove to my sister's house thinking about how I have to ask her to rescue me once again, feeling foolish and wondering why I haven't learned this lesson yet. But then I decide that all I can do is try to learn from the situation and I try to think positively.

One of the things that comes to mind that makes me smile is remembering what my mom told me about my late father. Every year they would travel to Prince Edward Island, where my father was from. Learning from the first trip they took there together after they were married, my mother would have three sets of car keys cut and take them with her in her purse. Without fail, on each visit, my dad would lose at least one set of car keys on the beach somewhere. I smile and think of how much I loved my father and what a fantastic person he was. In particular, I think about how often I got to see him take joy in simple things, and I think, if I have inherited this from him, so be it. Perhaps my tendency to not always plan well or think everything through everything in my life makes me joyful and fancy free like he was.

After picking up my children, I drove back to the gas station and went to see the man who gave me gas. I said, "thank you so much for your generosity today", and I gave him the $40 that my dear sister (who has helped me out of countless binds and also who, by the way, laughed and said, "I do that sort of thing all the time") gave to me. I asked for an additional $20 worth of gas and explained to him that the other $10 was going in the glove box so that I wouldn't be in this rut again. The smile on the man's face made my day and brings a tear to my eye as I write this. And I can't help but think to myself that if I had had $10 in my glove box, I would never have had the opportunity to have an exchange of kindness with this man.

The following day I need to ask a woman in a parking lot for change for a dollar to make another phone call. We exchange smiles and I have a nice conversation with her and her husband as they search their wallets for quarters. These moments of vulnerability allow for kind interactions with strangers that bring me joy. If I were different; well prepared, well organized, self sufficient, I would have fewer reasons to reach out to people in my community. Hmm...

I find my mind wandering to people who take great journeys, walking on foot with no provisions for themselves and live for a time off of the kindness of others. And I think about how this must be such a humbling and heart warming experience for the person walking and for those who take them in.

Vulnerability. This is how we really connect with each other in this life.

After writing the draft for this post yesterday, I finally got around to watching a video that was recently recommended by a friend. When I started watching this Brené Brown talk, I was once again amazed by how life works and things come together just as they should. You start a conversation with one person (or yourself) on one day and find yourself continuing that conversation at another time with someone else.

Well, this post wasn't brief at all! I hope it was thought provoking for you.

Have a great Monday!

 ♥ Andrea ♥

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