A couple of days from now will mark 4 weeks since the boys and I have been back in California. It’s gone by fast, and there’s a lot to share. Like, for example, the time I was in <insert name of giant superstore here> and I stood in awe of an entire row of just ziplock bags. Or the time we were in <insert name of another giant superstore here> and Brenden pointed out that there were more people in that store than in most of the villages we’ve been to.
However, instead of pulling together a rant about how crowded it is here or how there is just so much excess of, well, everything, I thought I’d start by focusing on something positive that I wasn’t really expecting:
People are a lot nicer than I remember.
I was totally expecting to come back to a land where there are so many people that no one values each other; where most of the time they don’t even notice each other. But that narrative simply hasn’t played out for me. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with total strangers since I’ve been back; probably more during these last four weeks than in my whole life before that! And imagine my surprise the time I was walking across the grocery store parking lot loaded down with probably one too many bags, and a woman stopped and asked if I’d like some help. It kind of made me feel bad about writing that whole blog post about how people aren’t as helpful back home as they are in the Pacific Islands (or the cruising community).
Then there was that time I drove my new car up on the curb and then basically ripped the bumper off as I backed off. Now, I guess that’s a funny story in and of itself considering I was just starting to think I had gotten used to this whole driving thing again, but I really don’t want to talk about that yet. Still too raw. The thing is that while I was standing there staring at what I had done, likely with my jaw dropped all the way to the pavement, a woman reached out to me. After telling me to just go buy some electrical tape and tape it up so I could drive it home (or to the body shop!) she reassured me that this was certainly no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Really? Who does this? A month ago if you had asked me to predict how people would react to something like this I would have said they would either laugh or ignore me or both. But she was compassionate, and who couldn’t use some compassion while their front bumper is hanging off the front of their car?
But the time that really got to me, that made me really start to think about this, was the time I was running along the coast, and a little girl who was sitting on the sea wall smiled and waved at me as I went by. Wait a second. That’s what kids in the islands do. Kids here don’t do that, right? Then I realized that I had been running along looking around and smiling and enjoying myself. Perhaps I was open and receptive and the little girl noticed and she responded with a simple gesture of friendliness.
Maybe people are nicer than I remember, but maybe just a little bit of it is actually about me. Maybe I’m the one who’s nicer.