A few weeks ago, family were visiting from Holland and we decided to take them to Bourton-on-the-Water. On arrival, we emptied the car of all we needed, before a few of our travelling party headed for a quick toilet stop. Whilst waiting at the car, one contingent nearby – who must have come from separate locations, since hugs and pleasantries were aplenty upon vacation of two cars – grabbed my attention.
Amongst this small crowd was one chap who in particular caught my eye. There is a simple explanation for this: I really liked what he was wearing. With a black hat excellently complementing his plain-grey jumper, this chap had some style.
Safe to say, I had clothing envy.
We soon departed our separate ways. A couple of hours later, whilst having a packed lunch beside the river, I overheard a snippet of conversation that piqued my interest: ‘I like to write and I recently got a new fountain pen to write on cards’. Given my own love of writing, it is little wonder my ears were burning! I quickly turned my head to see who lay at the source of these words.
Lo and behold, it was black hat guy!
This discovery really surprised me, likely because I could not get past what he was wearing. It never really entered my mind to consider what he did and what stories he would have to tell. I just wanted his black hat.
The episode was a welcome nudge for me. I walk past people in the street, sit with others older and younger in a waiting room for something or someone, casually brush aside the fellow commuter on the train, give my order to the waiter and receive my order from the waiter – and they can all blur into one, with interaction and thought limited to how their life impacts my own life. Like whether or not their black hat would suit me.
This is, of course, understandable given the demands of life, the presence of company and, well, the sheer number of people we walk by, walk past, look at, say an Excuse me or a Thank you to.
But then I wonder what would happen if, where possible, I made a little more room to adjust the lens through which I often view the passing world?
Halt the bubbling of road rage at the driver who hasn’t really committed the unforgiveable sin. Turn my busy mind to the small crowd around me as I ride the Circle Line. Watch for a moment that man sitting on the green grass eating a pasty whilst reading a book which takes his mind somewhere else for twenty minutes.
In doing so, I see that behind that often indistingishable blur lays tales of sadness and regret, pain and hurt, frustration and longing, happiness and joy, success and achievement, adventure and wandering, learnings and breakthrough, gift and skill.
At that, my mind no longer sees the blur of many but the focus of one.
And no longer do I simply want their black hat. Instead I wonder what stories they would have to tell.
When we see people we don’t know, we are oftentimes free from the judgement, knowledge and bias that so often accompany our own relationships, and this I always think can give us a bigger capacity for our imaginations to dance – much like that game you play with a friend at the airport or in the pub when you attempt to write the script of those who walk past or sit nearby.
I want to do that a little bit more.
To intentionally let my mind dance more for others.
To let my ever-wandering eyes lock into the lives of one or two others.
To think well of them.
To pray that the good and the beautiful and the lovely will bud. God, bless them. A cliché, perhaps. A prayer, it can be. God, so richly bless them!
To give a smile.
To speak a compliment. My friend, you have some style going with that black hat!
To offer a helping hand.
To perhaps even ask how good that book is or what it is they are studying or the name of their dog.
I really hope that we can all leave room in our hearts for some of the black hat guys out there. It helps take our minds off ourselves and to the deep wells that lay within us all. Each one of us so fearfully and wonderfully made by the God who loves all so much and wants all to know Him. Our momentary dreaming may not shake the world, but it may lead to a smile, a conversation, comment, a relationship, a gift, a prayer that will do something good for someone special.
‘My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together’ – Desmond Tutu