Sunday Post 164: We’re strangers, yet not

About eight months ago we started taking the highway as our primary route to Michelle and Stephanie’s school.  Before that we had followed Lisa’s lead – the back way.

She lived in Raleigh her entire life and avoided the Beltline as if driving on it would give her smallpox.  To her credit, you do pass two schools on your way to I-440.  But to my credit, if we are on time, we hit it right between the middle school drop off and the elementary school drop off – and we save about 2 minutes.  In my world, that’s a lot of time.

It didn’t take but a few days for us to notice her, the little old lady who walks Ridge Road every single morning at the very time we head out.  I think I was the first to call her out.

“Girls, look at that sweet old lady, the one in the pink sweat suit.  She exercises every single morning.  I love her!”

“Dad, she has a fanny pack!”  Michelle wasn’t about to let that fashion faux pas go unnoticed.

“I think it’s cute,” Stephanie added.

This woman in the silky pink sweat suit with the black fanny pack hitched over her jacket at the very epicenter of her body became a part of our daily routine.

We’d wave to her, although she never noticed.  We talked about what we thought she was going to do that day, “Maybe she’s gonna go shopping for a new sweat suit.”

“Nah.  I think she’s gonna catch up on her favorite show, Honey Boo Boo.”

“Dad, can we meet her some day?”  Stephanie requested.

“Perhaps this summer we can take a morning walk and try.”

I’ve been so impressed with her commitment.  She appears to be in better shape than I.

But the past two weeks, she hasn’t been walking.  I’m not sure what’s going on.  We’re pretty concerned about her.  Is she visiting her daughter in Iowa?  Could she be sick?  Did she move?  Worse?

Last fall I went to the dry cleaners and the woman there asked me why she hadn’t seen my wife in a while.  I had to break the news to her.  I could tell it shook her up.

My life is full of folks like that.  People that make up my community and yet I don’t know much of anything about them.

There’s the rough-looking dude who runs the register at the drugstore.  He’ll talk your ear off.

There’s a woman who bags at the Harris Teeter.  She has one grown daughter, and she grew up in Fayetteville, my hometown.  I’ve “known” her for years.  There’s the sixty year old woman with beautiful, straight white hair.  We’ve been smiling at each other as we both jogged Ridge Road since DJ was in a stroller.  There’s another woman who walks in our neighborhood.  She has two leg braces.  One day she stopped me in my yard and told me that our house was her favorite on the street.

We live all around these people.  They live all around us.  We rely on each other for constancy.  We miss their presence when they’re not where they’re supposed to be.  And yet, we don’t take the time to learn their name or a thing about them.

Maybe we’re too busy.  Maybe we’re lazy.  But I folks who do more than I do to call folks by name – to engage in a brief conversation, to show some appreciation for the small role they play in our lives.

We’re strangers and yet not.



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  1. Love all your posts, but this is one of my new favorites. Thank you for noticing these important people in our lives! And thank you for letting us into yours! Sarah Peters

  2. Mom

     /  April 13, 2014

    My life is full of people like that too. They really make your day better by their smile and a word as you pass. There’s a man who works for Time Warner at the mall who is a favorite of ours. He now knows about you and your girls and asks about our Raleigh visits and your family because he notices when we don’t do our walk. We had a favorite check-out lady at HT too for years. She left when the business was sold and we miss her joyful spirit when we go to the grocery store and wonder how she is dealing with all of her tough times that she shared with us as she checked out our groceries. I love the feeling of community that you get when you take the time to just smile and say “hi” to people who are constant in your life. You often are aware of how much alike humans are in spite of their visible differences.

  3. Frances

     /  April 13, 2014

    I think I now know where you get your beautiful writing style and way of expressing yourself…….it’s from your Mom….i.e. the comment she just left.

  4. This has just become one of my favorite posts you’ve written. But I don’t see not knowing the names of those who form some of the building blocks of our sense of community as a failing. I’d put money on the fact that the woman at the drycleaners didn’t care less for your wife because she didn’t know her name or ask after her sooner. Or that not knowing the name of the woman in the track suit changes your delight in her or concern for her. Sometimes people flit in and out of our daily existence, they are a wonderful part of life. I think that you care about these people is enough–that is makes you a good man.

  5. I’m working on being more involved in my “community” of people. The people that I run into and miss when I don’t see, making sure I take the time to smile, wave and say hi. Just making the time. We always think there will be more time, I’m learning to make the time now.

  6. Kristen

     /  April 13, 2014

    Just like the folks you pass on a regular basis, this blog has become its own community. I have followed your blog since it began, but have just now started commenting on your posts. There have been many times where I’ve wanted to comment, but for some reason or other I didn’t. As someone on the flip side of this type of journey, a child who lost a parent at a very young age, I can relate to a lot of the topics you’ve written about, and appreciate the humor you find in the day-to-day.

    I work for a branch of the Y, and I can clearly remember where I was the day I heard about Lisa, and the group of coworkers that circled in prayer for you and your family. I think that this project you started (which has clearly taken flight, what with your book and everything–read it in two sittings, by the way–beautifully written) has been great, not only as part of your healing, but for others out there who have had similar experiences.

    So hats off to you, sir, for fostering a community through your posts–keep up the good work, and God Bless.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  April 13, 2014

      I’m glad to know my extended Y family circled in prayer when they heard about Lisa. I think I underestimated those who were pulling so hard for us. Thanks for reading!

  7. Mom

     /  April 13, 2014

    I would love to take the credit for his writing but his dad is a pro when it comes to that. I can see several family members in Bruce quite clearly. He’s a Heinz mixture!

  8. Linda Smith

     /  April 14, 2014

    I love this piece Bruce, it made me stop and think of those around us and what a big part of our lives they are. I will now look at them in a different way and meby, just meby I will let them know they are important they are to me. Thanks Linda Smith


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