Fear. The Story of a New Friend.



I get stymied by how to write a blog post after a national tragedy.
I’m scared. I’m sad. I’m tired. I want to help. I don’t know how. I don’t want to add to the chatter when we all need to LISTEN.
But I’d like to share something that happened on Saturday. A utility worker showed up at my house to repair some electrical things. I had planned to let him do his work and go back to my newspaper, where I could continue to drown in sadness and fear. But then he started pointing at my plants.
“That hydrangea will come back stronger if you cut it down to here,” he said.
“Let me show you how to prune this plum tree so you can get more fruit.”
“Pull those carrots a little earlier and they will taste better.”
We talked about gardens and I followed him around the sunny yard, (still wearing my pajamas!) After he finished the electrical work, we had coffee and kept talking. He told me about his childhood living around the world as a military kid. He showed me pictures of his garden from his cell phone. We talked about cooking and coffee. I gave him a jar of blackberry jam and he told me he’d use it to glaze the roasted turkey leg he planned to make that night.
I didn’t want him to leave, but we’d already talked long after his scheduled service call. As I walked him to his truck, he mentioned that he was thinking of relocating to Texas in the next few years.
I was surprised when my eyes filled with tears.
“But they all have guns!” I blurted out. “Won’t you be scared?”
He looked at me for a long moment before he replied, “I don’t worry about the bad guys. I find that if I look people in the eye and smile at them, I make friends. That’s all anybody can do.”
Imagine this tall, well-dressed African American man comforting a middle-aged white woman in her pajamas on the sidewalk in Orange County. We must have made a strange sight. (By we, of course, I mean I.) I thanked him for spending so much of his morning talking to me, and hoped we’d see each other again.
“Looks like you made a new best friend,” my husband said, when I walked back into the house with a big grin on my face.
The newspaper was still sad and devastating and horrible. But I got to share my morning coffee with someone, and it felt like I made a friend. It didn’t change the world, but it was a connection, and it helped.
He was right. It’s all anyone can do.

Above photo via Unsplash.

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