I was pounding the pavement behind him. The frail, old man was hobbling along so slowly that, as I got closer, I had to pull back on the pram. I’d need to pass him.
I carefully edged the pram up onto the nature strip. Although I’d been making plenty of noise, the old man continued to waddle in a way that told me he still hadn’t heard me. It wasn’t until I’d almost past, that he saw me. His long, bony frame shuffled to the side with a fright; a wonky giraffe sort of move.
‘Oh, sorry,’ he croaked. I smiled my friendliest smile but, as I thanked him, I noticed a ‘look’ in his glassy eyes. It was a sort of shocked, vacant look, as though he hadn’t quite gotten over the surprise of my passing. But it was more than that. They were distracted eyes. Far away eyes. It was like I could see his thoughts in them.
I clunked the pram back onto the pathway in front of him and I powered on again. But that man behind me; that stranger. He had gotten to me, somehow. The eyes. The wonky step. Where had he been going? Was he simply a frail old man, following his doctor’s orders to get some exercises? Was he visiting someone? Whatever the case, he seemed so much more ‘human’ than all the other strangers I’d passed along the way.
As I walked away, I felt torn. He’d seemed so fragile. My humanity was shouting at me to turn around and walk with him to wherever he was going; to share with him some more of my smiles; to be there in case he stumbled. Stranger, or not, I wanted to make sure he was happy and that his lanky, giraffe legs safely got him to where he needed to be.
I’d never have thought a brief crossing of paths could make such an impact on me. I’d also never have thought that I could care for a stranger enough to worry about them. But I shouldn’t be surprised.
We’re connected by our humanity. We are programmed to care about one another—stranger or friend.
And that, to me, is what makes our world go ‘round so beautifully.
And that, to me, is why this moment was worth sharing.