To say I’m an extrovert would be an understatement. My family hasn’t really told me how they feel about that. I’m sure there have been some cringe worthy moments over time. I’m also confident my outgoing nature has produced some warm memories as well. It is almost as if I just can’t not engage people who come across my path. Sunday was such an example.
We were walking through one of the
Smithsonian gardens when I overheard two ladies behind us exclaim, “Isn’t that beautiful?” Not missing a beat I spun and inquired, “Are you talking about me?” the ladies burst into laughter and replied, “Oh yes! How did you know?” I was delighted beyond measure. The problem with engaging random people in public is that you never know what might happen. They weren’t done with me yet. I had met my match. They continued with a few more cajoling comments. “Oh yeah, he’s so fine.” And then, all the while invitingly laughing, “Looky there, I believe that boy gained a little pep in his step!” and her friend replied, “I do believe he is fully an inch taller!” And my family joined in their laughter. My work there was done.
The next engagement I subjected my family to on this day did not go so well. An innocent enough, “Hey, how ya doing?” was met with an all-out profane and manic diatribe about all the racists up around here and that he wasn’t gonna take it anymore. He continued to tell us he was going to kill some people if things did not change. Ya know… I didn’t really know what to do with that. Naturally the first thing I did was make sure I was between this man and my wife but I didn’t know what to say. I’m not sure that saying anything wouldn’t have made things worse. My daughter eventually asked the man to have a good day and we continued about our way. An awkward silence weighed heavy among us.
This man was in obvious pain. I could see it in his eyes. Perhaps there was nothing that could be done, by me, for this man. Maybe there was. My assumption is that professional mental health services were required. At the time the volatility of this man motivated me to separate him from my family.
Today the memory of the look in the eyes of that man haunts me. I know that I can’t personally take on the challenge of every suffering soul in the city. And yet I worry about how that understanding, that there was nothing I was willing to do at that moment, might cause me to do less than I could. Less than I should. People are talking a lot of being “woke” these days. I have some skills that can be employed to hopefully ease the burden some at risk people may face on a daily basis. It’s time to find a cause and put some time and treasure back into my community. This being an extrovert can be a lot of work.
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