Recently I had an experience in the poplar bush of one of our local dog parks. I went with daughter Nicole and our dog Kallista to the Parkerlands for a Saturday afternoon walk. Nicole DID NOT want to join me on the walk and insisted I was forcing her into a bad experience equal only to other forced marches in the history and wastelands of the world. I dramatize our moment, but we were not happy with each other, and she trudged along unwillingly behind me as Kallista bounded and danced in front of us. A woman and her dog walked by and Nicole muttered that the person had given her a dirty look. "What?", I said, thinking I hadn't heard correctly. The woman had heard, but she ignored the comment. "People always look at me like I'm weird", said my unhappy daughter. [As if the grumpy face and attitude wasn't a give-away...] I think you can tell by now that I wasn't that happy with my daughter either.
I turned around to talk this out ... it's always my "go to" solution to talk things out, even though now I realize that sometimes my daughter just wants to feel mad. Mad at me, mad at the world, and mad at whatever is making her mad. "Nicole"... I said through my own gritted teeth: "You don't have to think that everyone is looking at you." [And isn't that what most teenagers feel at some point? -- everyone IS looking at them...] Obviously the mother of the mother/daughter pair wasn't that happy either...
Another woman, who had walked by at this point, turned around, and with a loving smile commented that her name was Nicole as well, and wasn't it a beautiful name. Didn't (my) Nicole love her name too? That simple act of stopping and commenting on some obvious unhappiness stopped us both in our tracks. She told us how she loved her name, and continued to engage directly with (my daughter) Nicole, commenting on the weather, the dogs who were sniffing each other, and on the qualities of the name they shared. This compassionate act was thoughtful, and directed to engage with my teenager who struggles with social connection. It forced her out of the state of misery and made her connect to the empathy and love that flowed to her.
I wondered then, and still think about why and how that happened. Is she empathic somehow? Is she trained to notice when people cannot engage directly with the world? Others had gone by, ignoring the gloominess. The two Nicoles focused on each other, and it was as if a healing touch had been given -- the bad mood of the day lightened, and the stagnant attitude that trapped us was blown away. This simple act of compassion and direct contact made all the difference. There was no need to stop and talk, and yet she did. She saw and felt something and connected to it with meaning. It reminded me that there are caring people who feel the weight that sometimes drags around with us. We get used to that feeling, and don't want to change. The kindness of a stranger took away that heavy attitude. I offer my thanks to the kindness of a stranger who turned a grudging moment into one of reconnection.