This is Patrick. He is 80 years old. He used to live below me for a few years when I had rented out my home and moved my son and I to a safe place where no one knew where we lived. I noticed Patrick when we were neighbors but I never stopped and chatted with him long enough to ever ask his name.
But today I did. Today was the first day I stopped to actually talk with him. Years ago we’d exchange neighborly pleasantries in passing, but I never paused long enough to engage in a conversation.
Yet I had always noticed him. In fact every morning when I’d look out my kitchen window, I noticed him walking around the grounds picking up trash.
I recall one morning I was channeled with the inspiration to write a song about him and his selfless act of helping out. That was over three years ago. I never did anything with that song. Well, not yet at least.
Today, on my way to get gas at Costco, I stopped to have an early lunch at Luna Grill in Mission Valley. As I parked my car I watched as my old neighbor walked in front of my car with his trash picker-upper and a bag. It was at that moment when I recalled the song I wrote about him. As I got out of my car we smiled at each other and exchanged pleasantries, but I yet again didn’t stop to chat.
I ate my lunch and journaled. Then, as I walked back to my car there he was again walking in front of my car. Knowing that was not a coincidence (nothing is) and feeling led to connect with him, I stopped him and asked his name. He lit up!
I told Patrick that he inspired me to write a song about him because I always noticed him picking up trash. I told him how impressed I was by his act of helpfulness. He lit up brighter and said, “I want to do my part. We’re all in this together you know.” I smiled as his words aligned with lyrics from another one of my songs and said, “Oh yes, I do know that.”
We talked for a long time. Patrick told me about his wife and how she died of cancer years ago, and how hard it was for him to stay living in their family home being reminded of her and their memories. In an effort to not feel so lonely, he moved to a complex where he could live among other people.
Having had a particularly challenging and emotional morning myself mixed with hearing Patrick talk about his wife dying of cancer, him being all alone, and how appreciative he was that I stopped to talk with him…the flood gates of my tears gave way. I cried as I told him about my Dad dying of cancer and my Mom adjusting to being without him now, and how I try to help her not feel so alone in those moments when she feels challenged with her new reality.
I let my tears flow as I shared. I know now that the heaviness I have been carrying the last few years and all I’ve endured (that I refrain from sharing on social media) flooded out of me as I stood on the sidewalk of a shopping center talking to this man named Patrick.
He was so compassionate with me and he expressed gratitude for our conversation. He kept asking if I had somewhere else I needed to be and I told him, “No. This is where I’m supposed to be.”
I listened and smiled as he told me about his son and granddaughter. He told me about his wife and how much he loved her. He smiled as he told me about the story of how they fell in love.
I asked Patrick if I could take a photo and he smiled as he said yes. He took his hat off in a gentlemanly way and posed for me. We hugged and he thanked me for stopping to talk with him. I smiled and told him, “It’s my pleasure. This is the highlight of my day.”
May we all take a moment this weekend to stop and ask someone their name. May we choose to create space in our lives for the potential for meaningful face-to-face conversations to take place. ?