I walked by an old man today. He was sitting outside a little bistro in Soho drinking a glass of wine. When I passed by the wine was almost finished. He looked nice in his checkered shirt and khaki trousers, a pair of braces and his cane resting in his lap. It’s an unusual sight in Soho. An old man in a bistro. In fact all around London it tends to be an unusual sight.
He looked so nice and kind, a bit lonely and I desperately wanted to go up to him and sit down for a chat, but in a typical me fashion I didn’t. I didn’t know how to approach him. I wanted an excuse, a reason, but I had none. I just wanted to say hello and ask him who he was. What stories he could tell me. Maybe he was one of the veteran pilots from WWII that they celebrated today? I panicked just hearing the sound of a plane flying across our offices, as I didn’t know it was taking place, but I do know the sound of fighter jets. What would it have been like in the war? Was he ever married? How did he meet his wife? What kind of stories make up his life?
“That’s the reason we kind of exist. It’s like our Job. To give to each other. And learn from each other. To capture moments of people. So it’s really strange to have somebody ignore the obvious human being right in front of them.” – Angelina Jolie
Each person we meet has a story to tell. A story filled with the same love, fear, sadness and joy you have in your own heart. A life so much the same, yet so different from yours. I find it fascinating, all these stories…and how we sometimes ignore them. How we prefer to turn the other way. How little we wish to understand, support and learn from one another. How in a big city you can be completely alone.
I wish, I wish I could reach out my hand to all those that pass me by and they could feel safe taking it. I wish those that took it would do so with love and kindness. With a willingness to share life, rather than defend their own borders. I wish I could remove some of my own borders and offer love and kindness to those that cross my path, whether we end up life long friends, or not.
What a different world it would be if we all felt safe and welcomed in each other’s company. If each person met you with a smile and held out a hand if they felt like talking just then. And if we would respect their wish to be alone if they didn’t, but still greet them with a smile and an open heart. There are people we love spending time with and those we don’t, but what if we could accept that with loving kindness? What if we could still be nice to everyone?
People are such treasure chests filled with stories. Of life. Of love. Whether their treasures are released, or locked up deep inside. Yet we ignore them. We ignore them because they come at us with anger, pain, sexual desires, irritating habits and a myriad of other things that may not suit us. Not at that moment in time. Or maybe they are locked and we don’t think it’s worth the time and energy unlocking them – of making them trust us enough to share their most precious – themselves. And sometimes it’s us that come at them with anger, fear and whatever else, or an intense desire to be loved, yet no love of self and therefore no faith that we will, or feeling that we will be OK if we don’t.
I just wonder if it would be different if we could approach each other in a loving way? If we could respect each other’s borders and still be open with one another? If we could approach each other not to get something but to give something? I’m not sure last time I heard someone say I’m looking for someone to give of myself to. I want sex. I want jokes. I want a hot body. I want a great dancer. I want… No wonder we get frightened of one another…
I wish schools taught love. Friendliness. Open heartedness. True confidence. How to follow your heart. I wish I knew how to do so when I meet strangers on a crowded street in a bustling summer evening. An evening where I could have shared something, given something, learnt something…but instead I walked away. I wish I knew. I wish I had the guts to be different. Lord knows I’m different today from years ago, but still. I have a long way to go. I wish I could cry. Let out all my own anger and sadness, so that I would heal. Learn to trust again. Give of myself again. Open the treasure chest that is my heart. A heart I’m sure an old man in Soho wouldn’t have minded having a conversation with for a few moments on summer’s night.