Once, in a hotel in California, I stepped onto an elevator in which a large well-dressed black man, and his equally large wife, stood. “Going down?” the man asked. “Yes, thank you,” I answered.
Quietly the elevator slid downwards. The couple did not know me and so had stopped their private conversation. Because, I did not known them, and our time together would be brief I simply watched the floor numbers as we descended. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the big man was studying me closely. After a couple of floors he spoke up.
“Is everything alright, son?”
It was an honest question and one that was well intentioned. I decided that it deserved an honest answer.
“No, Sir it is not.” I told him truthfully.
He did not ask me what was wrong, nor did he offer consolation or help. Instead he simply reached over and put his hand on my shoulder and said “this too will pass, son.”
At that I smiled and laughed. And he was right. Just having those words spoken to me at that exact time lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. My troubles changed not one iota but with his words something did in fact change – what? I’m not sure exactly – but change it definitely did.
I got off the elevator at my floor and thanked the man for his kind words. In fact, I was so affected by his words that I actually reached out and offered my hand. He took my hand in a big bear grip of a fist and we shook. He smiled back – and then the elevator doors closed and he and his wife were gone.
What an extraordinary thing! I’m not one of those personable guys who are easy in a crowd: walking, talking, laughing or interacting with passive, but somehow intimate, conversation – and yet – just for that one brief moment, there I was interacting with a perfect stranger on a very personal level. And somehow this stranger was able to recognize something about me — he saw the pressure I was under. Continue reading →