Sunday, June 27, 2010

empathy

i am in denver at the moment. it is about 8ish in the morning and i am sipping on hotel coffee with some leftover goat cheese and fig beignets from my lovely dinner last night.


i will write more about that dinner later. i am about to start in on a work project so that i can visit tattered cover, take some pics in LoDo, and meet up with VLD for tea. yet, before i get my head into this work project, i wanted to share with you a random moment i had at the denver airport yesterday as i was heading toward baggage claim.

at the denver airport, there is a train that takes passengers to the various terminals and baggage claim. there i was, zoning people out, carrying my bag with my laptop and the tunes on my ipod were blasting much louder than necessary. despite my zoning people out, i did notice something a bit unusual. there was this girl, she was about 16, and she was holding her mother's hand. they ended up standing next to me on the train.

now, how many 16 year old girls do you know are willing to hold their mom's hand in public? ummm, it is usually around age 12-13 when the kids usually walk in front or behind their parents in public places....not only as a way to assert their independence but also because parents are becoming decidedly "uncool".

the reason why i noticed the hands first was this girl was substantially taller than both me and her mom, so the hands were closer to my line of site. i had to look up to really see her. when i looked up, i saw that she was holding back tears. then i looked at her mom and i saw the exact same thing.

now, this wasn't a "we had a fight with each other and are keeping things in". or at least, that was my feeling on the situation. my read on the situation was that something was obviously wrong. not a "little wrong" but a "freakin big wrong".

because here you had, two women...one young....one older.......having the exact same eyes....both fighting so much to hold things in....yet the tears were there and they weren't going anywhere. the tears were in swimming in a stasis around their eyes. the mother had a small purse with her....and the girl was holding nothing except her mom's hand. no travel bags or travel-oriented accoutrements....and we were all in a part of the airport where you had to have just gotten off a flight. this is pretty unusual behavior these days.

i found myself in a wee bit of dilemma.

do i say something knowing that saying something will crack their control that they are trying to maintain....or would they rather that their control be cracked and know that someone recognizes their pain and is trying to offer comfort? i did not know these women. we were all random strangers on a train. yet, it was obvious that they were suffering and it seemed rather inhuman to just pretend that it was not happening. so i slowly reached into my bag, pulled out a pack of tissues, opened it, and offered it to the younger woman since she was the closest to me. this whole thing happened in the span of a few moments by the way. it is interesting how it takes longer to explain that it does to live it.

the young woman looked a bit surprised and reached tissue. then i said, "you can have the pack." then the tears began to slowly fall. she said thank you and looked at her mom. they both had a moment of processing this. control regained. then her mom said thank you as well. then we arrived at one of the stops and the mom in a bit of panic asked me if this was baggage claim and i said "no, it is ok, it is not this stop." and the mom seemed to resettle into herself....almost with a bit of more determination.

i didn't ask any questions because i didn't think it was my business, but i waited until we exited the train toward baggage claim before i put ipod earbuds back into my ears. it is a challenge isn't it? to try to figure out how to offer comfort and support without intruding. as i walked toward the area to pick up my bag, looking back that moment that just happened, i also found my eyes tearing up a bit. i found my reaction odd and not odd at the same time. odd, because i don't know these women.....yet, not odd, because for all of my socially awkward driven analytical self, i do have empathy...and how could i not feel for them? and their pain that they are obviously trying to hold in? and hold it and themselves together?

i didn't tell my colleagues when i saw them at baggage claim what had just happened, and i wasn't even certain i was going to tell you, dear readers. yet, it did happen and is something that i've been thinking about.

well, it is time to get to work.

until later dear hearts.

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