It’s a funny thing about beautiful people – they are everywhere, but we don’t see them. I’m not speaking about good looks of course, but of an inner beauty that suddenly appears in your awareness when you least expect it.
Last week I was filling my car with gasoline after a long and tiring day. In my weariness of body and mind, I somehow lost my credit card. I had already paid the cashier, but my card was not in my wallet and I had no idea where it was. Annoyed at myself and at the world in general over my lapse of attention, I re-traced my steps from the cashier to the gas pump, but found no credit card either on the pavement or in the car. I looked everywhere; on the car seats, under the floor mats, under the car, even in the trunk, but my credit card seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
As my frustration grew, I went back to the cashier and asked her if anyone had found the card and turned it in. “No, I don’t think so,” was her curt reply. She was young and perky and seemed completely uninterested in my distress. So I asked her if I could talk with the manager to find out if someone had found my credit card.
And then the entire relationship shifted. Her perkiness disappeared and her voice quaked with sudden emotion. “He’s not here today,” she said softly. “He’s having chemotherapy.”
We looked at each other for a moment and her eyes began to tear. At that instant, another customer came in to pay his gas bill and buy a candy bar. She put on her perky smile and gave him his change, while I stood there trying to process what she had just said. The word “chemotherapy” hung heavily in the air and it took my breath away.
I watched her interact with two other customers and saw something different then. Instead of seeing a young, carefree woman who was indifferent to me, I saw a human being who was in pain and pretended not to be. She was doing her job as best she could while someone she cared about was undergoing cancer treatment.
Moments earlier, all I had cared about was finding my lost credit card before someone ran up a huge bill; but now it didn’t matter. I knew I could call the credit card company and report it was lost. It was just a piece of meaningless plastic. What mattered was the interaction I was having with someone who had a friend coping with cancer.
In a matter of seconds, it was like the poles of the planet had switched places and I was in a different universe. I was no longer thinking about my insignificant concerns, but was confronted with how life is; not only for a young cashier, but for all of us.
Yes, beautiful people are everywhere; they walk in and out of our lives without us ever knowing it. Their stories are our stories. Their desire for happiness is the same as ours. They find a way “out of the depths,” as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross put it. Her ground breaking book, On Death and Dying has helped millions of people find beauty and peace where life and death intersect.
The jewel of human relationships is in the sharing of our humanity with each other; of opening fully to our shared experience of loss and joy – whether it’s with a stranger in a gas station or in your own home with those you love.
Wishing you every Blessing,
Essays & Reflections
“The most beautiful people I've known
are those who have known trials,
have known struggles, have known loss,
and have found their way out of the depths.”
by Cynthia Overweg