There’s this old guy who lives behind us. He owns the apartment building and lives in a little travel trailer which he takes off in for the winter.
He’s a tall, awkward man. He has a little poodle who must be as old as he is. Every day, several times a day, he walks his pooch around the block. Must take him an hour each time.
The mission of his slow, lumbering walks is to find prey to apprehend in one-sided conversation.
If you fall victim to him, he’ll talk AT you. And talk at you. And talk at you. (Notice that ‘listen’ is no part of that.) Every word hesitates before it leaves his mouth. Awkward pauses fill the gaps between words. He fails to look you in the eye and connect like a human. Your soul depletes with every muttered word.
Once you’re caught in his web, you’re not getting out. This man clearly has nothing to do but walk his dog, collect rent on his apartments, and talk at everyone he can during the day on his walks.
He has all day. And he doesn’t care if you don’t.
The only way to break from conversation without offending him is to fake a seizure, an incoming phone call, or a loss of bodily function.
Sloth is my least favorite of the seven deadly sins.
Like slow drivers. In Reno, we have what I call the Nevada Traffic Jam. This is where you have a wide-open stretch of road except for the three cars in each of the lanes ahead of you who refuse to go above 10mph UNDER the speed limit.
This man is a human Nevada Traffic Jam. He has one speed — barely. Barely moving. Barely connecting. Barely listening. Barely human.
All this was running through my mind in a flash when I fell victim to him the other day. I’d been avoiding him for a couple weeks. When walking home with my daughter, I’d see him from a distance and re-route to avoid him.
But now, I was toast. He got me. And he wasn’t letting go. He droned on and on. I felt the annoyance and rage build up inside. I was running late, as usual, and now, because I felt bad for him and didn’t want to offend him, I took it. The clock ticked on and his gums flapped on.
Suddenly, I remembered something I heard once…
Let love have its way with you.
Mid-conversation, this thought kicked in. I felt my shoulders relax and my gaze soften. I felt present in my body. And I felt love for this old, lonely man who lives in a travel trailer with nothing to do. Not sympathy. Empathy.
I felt connection with him.
But that didn’t change the fact that I had somewhere to go.
What changed was, this time, instead of faking a heart murmur, I looked him in the eye, held out my hand, and talked to him like a human being…
“Well, Mike, it sure was great seeing ya. Unfortunately, I have to run. I’m late, as usual. Have a good one, sir.”
And that was it. He shook my hand, smiled and sauntered off towards his trailer. He didn’t try to keep his monologue going like he’s done in the past.
Because we had a real, honest, love-fueled human connection, all was well, and we left the interaction with the energy nice and clean.
Love is always there. It’s always available. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like the right choice. But I’ve found that, without fail, it is. When we let it have its way with us, it finds its own way of working miracles.
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