Published: October 30th 2011October 30th 2011
At an apple orchard in NH
Leaving a home. Leaving everything that I’ve come to believe was safe over the last four years... with the first snow, as if the weather spoke for me.
Car packed, I stopped at a local apple orchard that I visited just a month ago, delighting in fresh tart apples and tasting samples of hard cider under a tent which now threatens to cave in on any daring customer. The sun, still low in the morning sky, was just enough to highlight the snowcapped apple trees and weaken the snow’s grip on the surrounding roofs.
My journey begins. To where you ask? Who knows. Leaving this fresh snow and facing the southern landscape, I wonder what awaits and how I should feel about this sudden change. Freedom, fear, excitement, remorse? How about I find some morning grub...
Waiting my turn, I watched as he robotically put together an order: open bag, place sandwich in flat, potatoes on top, packets of ketchup, fold bag. Repeat. Upon finishing he turned, a middle aged man, with his head at a slight angle and his view downcast he said, “Hi. Can I help you?” I focused my attention at his eyes before I spoke, “Morning. How are you?” His eyes did a double take, hesitant, he wasn’t sure whether to answer, but then responded, “I’m good, thanks. How are you?” I chuckled and said I was okay but a little hungry maybe. At this he smiled and said, “Well what would you like?”
-Dilemma: I’m at a McDonald’s. Maybe in Europe you can stop off the highway and find a fresh bakery or cafe where eggs aren’t a uniform shape, color and size and salt isn’t an abused mineral. I ordered a coffee and a hash brown, safe enough. “Will that be all?” I smile, “Well, unless you have a secret cappuccino maker back there to froth the milk for my coffee, then yes, that will be all. Thank you.”
He chuckled. I waited. The gentleman eventually handed me my order and with a crooked smile he wished me a good day. I got back in my car to head south, further from that morning's snow. Opening the bag that he so methodically packed and the coffee that he poured, I found a double order of hash browns, and frothy milk atop my coffee.
It’s interesting, the power of looking directly into one’s gaze, what it can sometimes reveal. The sense of walking away from a ‘safe home’, from those I know and feel closest to, allowed me to communicate with another not expecting their services, but feeling privileged to receive them. In a sense, ‘being real’.
Later that day I met with Paul Hutchinson. An individual with a unique position at BU as a lecturer and ‘coordinator of experience based training’ at their School of Management. Over a pitcher of BBC porter he talked about why he loves his work, saying that it requires an individual to ‘be real’ because there is no other way one can be when leading a group of individual’s deep into the woods for a week, or encouraging someone to take that last step off a zip platform. “As humans, in these moments, we often experience all kinds of emotions. And if you are their guide or support, you can’t be anything but ‘real’ with them. That person’s life can easily be transformed in that moment, and you are the one with them. What greater gift can one receive than to be alongside another human as you see them go through such a moment?”
Maybe there is more to ‘being real’ than we realize. Maybe it doesn’t need to happen on a zip platform, maybe it can happen with someone behind the counter at a McDonald’s. Not everyone will need or accept one’s ability to be real with them, but isn’t that beautiful...not knowing how each individual will react to you, or you to them. Living and reacting deliberately for the rare chance that you catch someone’s gaze and for a moment they aren’t just serving, or working...but instead sharing a real moment. Not that it is easy or possible to walk through life always being 'real', but how different small interactions can feel when we become extremely aware of individuals around us, whether performing daily routine work or stepping off a 30 foot platform. In more intense situations like being in the wilderness, you can really feel that life and emotion. Trying to capture that in daily life? ...What a challenge.
So here’s to catching the real in the small moments, that may matter more than we think. That frothy milk made my morning, and the fears... began to melt away.