It was just a couple of weeks ago that I met Adeline.
Or Adele, as all her friends call her.
I was sitting in the passenger seat of my mother's car in the ShopRite parking lot, waiting while she ran in for just one thing. In front of me and one car over was a gold SUV where a little old lady had just arrived, three shopping bags in tow.
The day was furiously windy, the kind of wind that blows your hair over your eyes and whips around your ankles. And also, the kind of wind that blows car doors open violently.
She was struggling to open her front door when that wind blew it open, fast, hitting the side mirror of the car parked next to hers. I saw part of the mirror fly off, landing on the pavement just in front of the car. I was admittedly (and guiltily) sort of distracted by the Instagram stories I was watching in the safety of my warm car, and didn't think much of it. A moment later a confused-looking woman was at her side, seemingly trying to help but at a loss.
It was then that I decided I should see if they needed any help. I bundled my coat around me and got out, assuming they'd say That's okay, thank you though, we've got it! at which point I could get back in the car and avoid any interaction.
Then I saw her hand, and the blood.
Her hand had been caught between the door and the mirror, slicing it across all five fingers practically down the bone. She was shaking as the blood dripped from her frail skinny fingers, looking unsure of what to do. The woman offering help seemed unsure as well, and clearly wanted me to take over, so I did.
I took a quick picture of the license plate of the car with the broken mirror and told her we should go inside to get some help for her hand. Blood dripped onto the floor as we waited at the customer service desk, while Adele told me about her 93-year-old husband who was at home napping, who she never left for long periods of time, who would be confused when he woke up and realized she'd been gone for so long, a quick trip to the bank turning into a long trip to the grocery store. I knew I shouldn't have left, she told me. He's not well. He can't drive. I shouldn't have left him. She was so upset.
Finally she was taken over to the store's first aid cabinet by a woman who lacked any kind of bedside manner, and I followed, feeling protective.
While her hand was being taken care of, she thanked me profusely. Over and over. Store staff kept asking me if I was with her, and looked shocked when I told them I didn't know this woman, that I'd simply seen her get injured in the parking lot. That still stands out to me, how surprised everyone was that we were strangers.
The store manager asked her if she felt weak, noticing how much blood she'd lost. She said no, determinedly. When he repeated his question a few minutes later, she vehemently responded, No, I am not weak. It's just the old age that makes me look weak. But I am not. I loved her in that moment.
Luckily there was an urgent care center just across the street, and an employee had offered to drive her over. This woman literally handed me her keys and tentatively asked if I'd go to her car to get her cell phone for her. (Talk about trust.)
I got to her car and grabbed her phone amidst the tossed-in bags of groceries and wondered how such a tiny woman drove such a large car. I remembered to lock it on my way out, wondering how long it'd be before she came back to it.
While we waited together in the warmth of the store just inside the sliding doors, she asked me my name.
Ruth, I told her.
Ruth what? she asked. She needed to know my name so she could thank me somehow, she said.
Oh! She was excited. I have a friend named Ruth Clark, who lives in California! That's easy to remember!
(Of course the 90-year-old woman had a friend with my name, of course. #oldladyname )
I asked what her name was and she told me it was Adeline, but all her friends call her Adele. I liked imagining who her friends might be.
She thanked me over and over while we waited for her ride, telling me how it was so nice of me to take the time to help, how no one has time anymore. She grasped my hand with her non-injured one and looked directly into my eyes. The connection was almost uncomfortable, but her ride arrived just then.
I regret not asking for her last name. I regret not asking for her information to keep in touch. I'm pretty sure I've found her address with just her first name, last initial, and the name of the town we were in, so I might send her a card. Or something. Something to let her know how much that one windy afternoon affected me.
You see, I thought about that interaction all day. And all the next day, too. And I'm still thinking about it now. I must have told the story at least five times that night. I was practically high on it. The elation, of simply connecting with another human being.
I couldn't believe how happy I felt, just from meeting this random old woman in a parking lot. No one takes time anymore, she'd said. But I couldn't imagine anyone not taking the time to help an injured old woman in a parking lot. I suppose someone might have looked away or focused on their Instagram-story-watching. (I almost did.) It could have been easy not to get out and say, Do you need any help? and yet I don't know how I couldn't have.
I almost felt selfish for how happy it made me. I thought about writing these words while I was still in the store with her, what I'd say, how I'd describe it, what nuggets I'd pull from it. I still feel selfish for how good I felt about helping someone in need, in such a small way.
Imagine. Feeling a literal high from connecting with a human being. So simple. So normal. So natural.
And yet, I can't remember the last time I connected with someone in this way. We tend to go about our days with our eyes down, literally and figuratively, focusing on ourselves and what's right in front of us, so much so that our interactions are rushed and disconnected.
This holiday season, I want more than that.
I want connection. I want authenticity. I want mindfulness. I want peace. I want a tiny little glimpse of genuine human interaction, no matter how small.
Enter Kindred Holidays. A little 5-day program that is as much for me as it is for you. An opportunity to gather online with others who want the same. An opportunity to settle into ourselves a little deeper this December. An opportunity to be open to magic and nourishment and sanity and kindness.
A program inspired by Adele. I like to think that she'll be there with us in spirit ;)