Have you met a Shirley?
For years I have seen an elderly woman walking along the road I live on. She makes her way from driveway to driveway, collecting returnable bottles and cans. This morning, while on my lawnmower, I see her, steps away from me.
I have a long list of chores and errands to tackle on my day off, but at this moment all I can think of is that I want to meet this woman. Since turning 50 a few years ago, I have recalled the familiar sayings "Time flies," "Savor the moments" and "It's the simple pleasures of life" hundreds of times.
A smile and a wave are common for anyone who passes by while I am mowing. But this morning I will listen to my inner voice, a voice that is telling me to take the time to greet this stranger that I have seen so many mornings before. (Unfortunately, I probably scared her when the lawnmower I was riding backfired with a loud noise as I turned it off.)
I quickly greeted her with a cheerful hello before she had the opportunity to run in fear that I may be crazy or angry. She was reluctant at first, or maybe just surprised that I wasn't looking to discuss her picking through my recycling bin, but we soon began a nice conversation.
Within minutes we aren't only chatting about bottles, cans and better bags to carry them in, but we are chatting about the garbage truck driver who changed his route so that she would have time to collect from her "area," as well as the family that leaves her a bag of returnables each week.
We easily moved on to conversations usually reserved for friends - previous careers, children, grandchildren and so on and so on.
I get covered with goose bumps more than once, and we both tear up as she talks about loved ones who have passed. We recover briefly, until I disclose that I will become a grandmother in a few weeks. Well, of course, from one grandmother to a soon-to-be-grandmother, our smiles could not reach any closer to our ears!
Just minutes ago, I didn't know this woman. How is it that I now know some of her pain, some of her joys, some of her story? Now she knows that I have envied her passion for walking miles a day to collect bottles and cans.
I've thought a few times as I drove past her that I really should join her and carry her bags - I could lose the 10 pounds that have been annoying me for years! (But then, I would have to remove the note on my refrigerator that says "Embrace Your Curves.")
I've passed her before and thought, "What is her story?"
And I passed her before and thought, "Shame on the person that wrote a complaint to the press about a 'suspicious' person collecting cans and bottles." Really people! She taught preschool for 35 years and is 73 years old.
Thirty minutes later, we would part, knowing each other better. I would know that she has suffered, she's loved, she's been loved and she will walk on, collecting one bottle, one can at a time. Miss Shirley with her plastic bags over her shoulder and me turning the key back on to finish mowing my front lawn.
I think to myself, I will find her better bags to carry her bottles and cans in, so that her shoulders won't suffer. I will leave more returnables in my recycling box. I will toot my horn and wave to Miss Shirley when I see her retracing her weekly path.
Most of all I will enjoy the simple pleasures in life, like meeting a lovely little lady, and I will remember that time flies, but not so fast that we can't turn off the lawn mower and savor a moment.