“If you have a warm heart and you care for others you’ll be happy and the community in which you live will be happier too.” Dalai Lama (He posted this yesterday and I just read it before writing this blog – which I find odd given the lesson I learned today.)
Sometimes, but not nearly enough, I try to find lessons from my day’s experiences. I find it easier when I am away from my daily routine to be open to the possibility of learning a much needed lesson.
We are staying with relatives in Santa Monica, California which is a place much different from where I live… no chickens down here and a lot of people dedicating themselves to attaining 0 percent body fat and showing those bodies off while pretending that they are indifferent to the attention.
This morning I went for a walk to meet family at the movie theater to see the new movie, Dunkirk. Right across the street where we are staying is Palisades Park which overlooks all of Santa Monica Bay. Here is picture of last night’s sunset, in black and white, before I get back to my story.
As I walked through the park, I was thinking about how nobody in the park acknowledges your existence. This is much different from where I live. Here, nobody says hello or looks at you…nobody. And, it is not just people of certain ages either. The children, young adults, and old people- they all ignore you.
As I was in deep contemplation about this social phenomenon, I came up to 3 people who were looking down at an elderly woman. She was well-dressed in a white blouse and white pants and she was flat on her back. She had just fallen and another elderly woman companion in a walker was staring down at her.
As is my nature, I walked over to see if I could help. Nobody seemed to know what to do and were afraid to touch her. I began asking her questions like “Are you hurt?” -“No, I am not.” “Why are you on the ground?” – “I fell.” “Are you dizzy?” “No.” “Would you like to get up?” – “Yes, I would.”
With the help of two others, including her male companion who didn’t realized she had fallen, we gently lifted her up. She was a classy woman. She thanked us and went walking arm in arm with her companion, none the worse for the wear as they say in my neck of the woods.
I thought how strange that I was just thinking deeply about the disconnection of people in this park, in Los Angeles in general, and bam I come across someone who needed connection to others. This thought then came into my consciousness (and my consciousness sometimes has a real potty mouth), “Fuck, we all need each other whether we act like it or not.” I have been in a life threatening situation where strangers who spent hours ignoring one another suddenly became very friendly towards one another. (It was in a hotel in the Bay Area during the 1989 earthquake.)
So I decided I would say, “Good Morning”to every person I walked by the rest of my way through the park. The response was underwhelming. Not one person out of the first 50 or so had any eye contact with me, even if they were kind enough to mumble back something inaudible. In their defense, 90% of them were hooked up to their cellphones with earplugs in their head.
The following two pictures I slyly took as I was approaching a person walking toward me. After so many rejections, I felt a little bit like a gunslinger in a western movie sizing up his opponent before drawing to shoot them only my bullets were “Good Morning.”
Finally I came upon another elderly woman sitting on a bench apparently resting and looking at the ocean scenery. In her arms, she had a lot of greenery stuff without flowers on the end. It looked like some type of herb and they were wrapped in a waxed, brown paper like a florist might wrap up roses. She was a bit heavy and when she tried to get up, without being able to push up with her hands, she fell back down on the bench. I thought, “Well this should be interesting. I wonder if she will scream for the police if I bend down to help her up?”
In the interest of my social experiment, I knew I had to take a chance so without asking her permission I bent down, put my hands under her elbows and helped her up. She hesitated at first, but once up said, “Thank you,” and shuffled off.
A few more people ignored me or half-answered me and I started feeling like the park creep until I finally came across a young woman with her baby in a stroller. One last time, I said, “Good Morning!” To my surprise, not only did she respond with a sincere greeting but also gave me a wonderful smile.
And that was my walk in the park. Next thing I did was to seek the sanctuary of a bookstore.