Life’s secret (awesome)sauce – for fish and chicken.
I just came back from the supermarket. I feel like I talk about supermarkets a lot. Anyway, I just came back from one, where I performed a little experiment: I made a concerted effort to engage, in a friendly manner, with everyone I made eye contact with. It could be as simple as a genuine smile, and as complex as a deep and meaningful convo. Those were my easy-peasy rules. Nothing as invasive as stroking a man’s beard or anything.
I went through with it and it was a thoroughly enlightening experience. And I didn;t even get arrested! My hypothesis was as follows: it’s the tiny contributions of active, positive energy that make the world go ‘round: one person’s simple acknowledgment, honest observation, or genuine compliment can become another’s treasure for life, and quite seriously influence their path.
In year eight, I wrote a short story for a creative writing assignment and (profoundly) titled it “The Grandfather Tree”. My English teacher, Mr Fitzpatrick, returned it the following week marked with an A++ (no typo, friends: double-effing-plus. Booyah.). In the comments section, he scrawled that I was officially the first year eight student to ever take his breath away. I mean, it goes without saying that this was my parents’ brag story for the rest of the year. And mine. There was more to it than that, though.
That comment etched itself into my consciousness, to the extent that I still think about it to this day. I’m not sure if Mr Fitzpatrick was entirely aware of the full impact his words would have, nor that they would wind up on the internet some 14 years later. I am very sure, however, that those words have a lot to do with where I am today – in a way that’s impossible to quantify, yet so special.
It’s not that I’d be twirling fire and chanting to L. Rob Hubbard if it wasn’t for Mr Fitzpatrick telling me my short story took his breath away. I’d probably still be writing. It’s worth a moment’s thought though, isn’t it? That comment, and the energy Mr Fitzpatrick injected into it (whether he knew it or not), was pivotal. It made a very real imprint on my self-belief. It told me that I should keep going with what I loved, and encouraged me to consider for the very first time that perhaps I loved it for a reason.
Last night as my housemate and I strolled along the pretend streets of Beverly Hills cursing the food-babies we conceived at the cupcake shop, a disheveled elderly man stopped us in the middle of the footpath.Literally stopped us, with mad interception skills on his wheelchair. He was homeless, with unfortunately gnarly pong, but the most glorious smile you could imagine. We popped a few coins in his jar, but he wasn’t ready to let us pass.
His name was Muhammad, and he wanted to talk.
Muhammad had a full, jolly repertoire of his very own riddles, all about love and happiness. There was a moment where I guess we gave up on trying to escape, and just surrendered to the full, obscure experience. He talked and talked… and talked. He talked about us, about the joy of love and life, about his family, and everything in between.
After 15 odd minutes with Muhammad, he politely requested a hug, and we obliged. With his face smooshed up against my ear, he whispered, “I love you with all my heart”. There was nothing creepy about it, him or anything else he said, it was just… kind of beautiful.
He left us each with a “business card”, that read: “Love and Beauty Batter Mix, for Fish and Chicken”, with a number to call, and a note to “ask for Muhammad”. As he was chatting with us, a 1932 edition Nokia squawked from his pocket a number of times, and I guess that explained why. I hope Muhammad was making some kind of a living out of this.
I felt – and still feel – vaguely guilty about how reluctant I was at the beginning of our interaction with Muhammad. Why was I so eager to get the away from him? So I could get back to my warm, comfortable house and potter around on Facebook as I contemplated whether or not the iPhone 5 is worth looking into? Why did I instinctively dread the thought of donating 15 minutes of my life to this scruffy looking stranger?
Engaging with Muhammad, and sharing a little love, was probably an even better decision than the original one we made to trek over to this cupcake shop to begin with.
(Massive call re: the cupcakes versus the homeless man, just so you know. Those are really, really good cupcakes.)
Anyway, that’s why I did that supermarket thing. It shouldn’t just be a supermarket thing, or a cupcake-induced-high thing; it should be an everyday thing. The tiniest things count. There’s no way of knowing just how profoundly they’ll count, until they do.
Mr Fitzpatrick didn’t need to write anything more than a simple, “great work”. My roomie and I could have thrown Muhammad a few extra coins just to shut him up, and kept walking. I could have kept my hoodie on and head down at the supermarket today.
Instead, I talked to the guy in the produce department about his multitasking prowess, listened to my cashier talk about her mad insomnia that gets her up at 3am every morning, and walked home smiling.
There’s no saying which comments, interactions, moments, gifts or even mishaps will make their way into the hall of fame of your consciousness and define where you end up. It could be a note from a mentor, a throwaway from a family member, or a word of drunk wisdom from a homeless man asleep on your nature strip.
I guess it’s what you make it. Fish or chicken?
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