Pollyanna Has Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers

Lyda here. It’s Friday. Finally. Yesterday’s post aside, I’d just like to say, I am not down on my co-workers.

Or on human beings in general. “Well, they’re my species.”

One day, when I was 18 living in a strange town far away from my family and friends, I was walking down the street.

And crying. Gustily.

A middle-aged man was walking the other way. As he came close, he said casually, “Good afternoon.” Like people do in the South.

I looked at him and burst into fresh sobs. And he started talking with me.

He stood there on that sidewalk and listened to me as I poured out all my misery. He spoke gently and kindly to me until I was calm and smiling and able to deal with my life again.

And then he walked on.

I never asked his name. But he made all the difference.

My mom was really good with people. On the beach, she would stop and ask fishermen what they had caught. At a party, she might be in the middle of a big group of people, making everyone laugh with one of her stories. Or she might be in a corner, comforting someone. She called waiters by their name. She spoke to people in movie lines, in the bathroom, and at school events.

One day, when we were safely in the car of course, I asked her in my best aggrieved teenage daughter voice, “Why do you always have to TALK to the grocery checker?”

She said, “Because no one else does.”

“Each person is different, never existed before and never to exist again. Just like this daisy – (she picks it) – an individual. …I believe much of the world’s sorrow comes from people who know they are this – (she holds the daisy) – yet let themselves be treated – (she looks out at the huge field of daisies) – as that.”

Maude, “Harold and Maude” (1971)

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