Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cheerful Strangers

We are in Dallas. We are visiting my grandparents who are here for a few days. It's been fun.

Today, we drove to the arboretum. It's a park. A park you pay for. Usually you would walk around and see flowers. But it's winter (a fact we may have forgotten when we decided to go). And the flowers are dead. So we walked around and saw grass. And many brown plants. And hundreds of leafless trees. It was... chilly. And almost empty.

We walked and walked and walked. Apparently no one wanted to miss any of the brownery. Somehow, Karlee and I were separated from the rest of our group. (Fine. We were slower and less enthused.) So we picked a bench and waited.

I saw a little bug next to our bench. It had somehow landed on its back. Its little arms and legs were flailing over its head. I'm pretty sure it was asking for help. ("Hey! Look at me over here!") Well, either that or it was trying to keep the sun out of its eyes.

"Karlee!" I said. "Look at this poor little bug. I wonder if it's stuck on its back. Like a turtle." I got down on the ground. As close as I could get. I was kneeling. And I blew that little bug. I didn't want to actually touch it. But blowing didn't seem to be working.

"Elise! You. are. killing. it." Karlee had joined me on her knees on the ground. And she was obviously as concerned as I was. I mean, who wouldn't be? That bug was the only thing clinging to life in this brown little park.

So I tore off a nearby leaf. (Don't worry. The leaf was dying anyway.) I tried to get the bug to grab it. Karlee and I may or may not have been coaching the bug. It's hard to say.

The poor thing was at death's door. And so we are not sure how long we had been kneeling there when it happened.

"Are you... praying?"

A short, stout, white-haired lady had appeared out of nowhere and was peering down at us.


I laughed. "Oh! No!" Laugh again. "We were rescuing a little bug." And, well, rescuing a bug sounds ridiculous enough. But we couldn't prove our story because the sweet 80-year-old woman couldn't see the bug. I don't think she could see the giant flower on Karlee's headband.

She seemed to believe us anyway. She smiled broadly and said, "Oh, well it sure looked like you were praying!" She was cheerful and darling. And then she toddled away. For a minute. She stopped, slowly turned around, and then said, "I just realized that I'd better go grab that good-looking man over there. We've been married for 62 years, after all." And she carefully toddled in the direction of a cute little old man resting on a bench several yards away.

Karlee and I cooed over the darling little couple.

As I'm writing this, it occurs to me that this dear lady may have wanted to rescue us. Maybe she saw two young women collapse to the ground. Maybe she turned to her companion of so many years and said, "I wonder if they need help!" And maybe he, knowing she would regret it later if she didn't, urged her to check on us. Maybe she was disappointed when she found us not in need of help (just as I was when our bug, once righted, stood still--confused--instead of rushing off, happy to be on his feet again).

So she didn't rescue us. And if we had needed rescuing, I can't imagine what the little woman would have done. She was barely balancing herself.

But I'm still thinking about her anyway. I'm thinking of her bright smile and her happy voice, cheerful from years of laughing. I'm thinking of her bold kindness in approaching two young strangers in praying position. I'm thinking of all the times I want to say something kind to a stranger and don't. I'm thinking of her returning to her husband's bench where she held his hand to help him up and where he took her arm and they gently toddled away together leaving Karlee and I to say, "Oh, I hope I'm like that when I'm old."


  1. HAHA. Elise, this was hilarious. I really hope I can write like you someday. I hope I'm like that too. You and Brad will be like that for sure except it will be Brad trying to balance you and make sure you don't kill anyone in your sleep with your cane. But, rescuing a bug...really?

  2. Thanks Elise... Makes you remember that love can last forever! :)

  3. This is beautiful writing, Elise. Just lovely.

  4. Ok...and wait, you know Deja?!?! CRAZY!! How? She's IN MY WARD. What a small little funny world we live in. I'm a little giddy now that I just discovered that!