It was early July. I stepped outside barefoot and let the sun warm my feet. It had become a routine to venture out to the music store located about a mile and half down the street, but I couldn’t go inside the store barefoot. I searched for my sandals and iPod shuffle and once again stepped outside on that cool July afternoon.
I had walked this route dozens of times. Each lawn ornament was a marker for how much further I would be walking. I looked up at the sky. It looked as if it was going to rain. No, it looked as if it was going to storm. Big beautiful clouds were hovering above me and the wind was blowing my hair into total disarray. The smells of summer drifted by me. Barbeque, fresh flowers, smoke from a fire pit, and fresh cut grass. I picked the longest piece of grass I could find and stuck it in my mouth. I have loved chewing of grass since I was a little girl.
My headphones were secure in my ears and the volume was turned up enough to block out the sound of the cars but low enough that I wouldn’t get run over because I couldn’t hear the cars honk. Mumford and Sons was playing. They sang the sweet words from “After the storm”,
“And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.” (Mumford and Sons)
Every time I heard those lines it made me feel calm. There is so much hope in those lines. A day with no more tears. That day seems so far off at times. But I am getting sidetracked.
After a pleasant walk to the music store and an enjoyable but slightly awkward round of window-shopping I was ready to head home. The headphones went in again and I continued along the street alone. I picked up a small branch from the sidewalk and started to peel the bark, it became smoother and smoother until at last the bark was all off. I was passing by people now. Each new person saw I would ignore. Not saying hello, not asking how they were, just walking by them with my music playing in my ears, and peeling the bark of my tree branch. When all of a sudden I remembered something. It was something my Grandpa (or Pappa as my siblings and I call him) had said to me when he was visiting from Canada in the spring. My Pappa looked at me one day for no reason and caught me off guard with a question: “Grace, when you look at people, and I don’t mean your friends Gracie, I mean just people who you walk by. How do you look at them? Do you look at them like trees? Taking them for granted and not really thinking about the fact that they have souls, hearts, lives, sorrows, and joys?”
I don’t know why I remembered these words at that moment. Maybe it was the tree branch that got me started thinking about trees. Maybe it was the suspicious looking man I passed at the bus stop that had me thinking about strangers. Maybe it was just a thought that popped in my head while I was on that afternoon walk; thoughts were spilling out of my head like a fondue fountain. Whatever the reason it really hit me. I started thinking about it. “Do I look at people as if they are trees?” I thought “If not, why do I act like I do? Why don’t I take a few seconds and say hello?” Rather than think about his for the rest of the trip I decide to do the hard thing.
There was a girl who I had been walking behind for about five minutes who looked about my age. She was short and had dark hair and kind eyes. I took out my headphones. Sorry Mumford! I threw down my branch and I walked a bit faster. After a few seconds I caught up to her and let these silly words out my mouth, “Hello! I am not following you nor am I a creeper, but I have been walking behind you for a while now and thought I would say hello and ask you how you are enjoying this fine day.” She looked at me as if I was crazy. I don’t think she knew what to think or say. So she simply said, “Hello, I don’t think you are a creeper.” This was the start of a rather awkward three-minute conversation about school. When we parted ways I knew I would never see her again.
Even though talking with her wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do, it felt right somehow. People are people. They live and breathe just like I do. Why is it that I so easily pass them by without so much as a smile? I made sure that I smiled and waved or said hello in my friendliest voice for the rest of the way home. As I got to the end of my walk I looked up at the sky again. A raindrop fell in my eye and I sent a prayer up to God. I prayed that for the rest of my life I would see people as souls, not as trees. It started to rain. The sky turned orange and purple. I looked up again and this time I thanked God for my lovely afternoon walk and the simple thoughts that turned into a life goal.