One of my favorite solitary adventures took place during a three thousand mile road trip that took me through five states I had never been to and several I had. One of those states was South Carolina where I had decided to go geocaching at Edisto Island. I spent only one day in South Carolina, but it is the part of the two week trip I remember the most.
I was there in late October, so I missed most of the tourists and the beach was peaceful. I wandered the beach, watched the surf, took pictures, and then went looking for coffee. As I drove around on the hunt, I spotted a sign on a house that read, “Books and Lattes.”
Two of my favorite things in the same place, my idea of heaven.
It was still quite early and I got my latte and browsed the books while I chatted with the owner. I asked her where a good place to eat was and she indicated out the front door with a wave of her hand.
“Oh, across the street?”
“No, ma’am. Across the deck.”
There were three houses connected by a single deck. Her bookstore was one and across the deck was a restaurant called the Sea Cow Cafe. There were no signs, no advertisements of any kind that I ever saw for the Sea Cow. I also never saw a parking lot, but when I walked in the place it was packed to the gills.
The restaurant was in an old house and the main room had a bench running around the walls on three sides. Tiny tables for two were pushed together in groups of two with maybe twelve inches between every other one to allow access to the bench. More were packed into the central area.
I loved it.
One of the tables along the wall freed up in the few seconds I spoke with the waitress. I sat down, decided to try something I had never had and placed my order as the table next to me cleared.
The ice was broken when the new guests excused themselves bumped my table trying to get seated and apologized. I chatted with the woman who sat next to me and told her I was a tourist. Her son or daughter lived on the island and they were visiting as well, but she’d been there before. She asked where I was going and recommended I stop off in Charleston at Market Street.
I hadn’t planned to go to Charleston, but her recommendation made me curious. I wandered Market street and bought several souvenirs.
The point of this story is, I never would have had those conversations or found out about the Sea Cow or Market Street if I had not talked to strangers. Those conversations were sparked because I was out of my comfort zone and asking questions.
This morning I went out into the world. This is not a pleasant thing to do anymore. When I am alone and can go at my own pace, things are great. But when I’m in the world, I see and hear things that bring me down. Things that darken my outlook and mute The Divine. I absorb them into my soul and it takes a while to shake it off.
This morning wasn’t too bad though. I went to a coffee shop to have breakfast while I waited for a shop to open. There were a couple coffee klatchs present and I listened to one of the groups talk about the things that are important to them. One of the men made eye contact with me several times and as I met his gaze again, I noticed a man behind him at another booth.
This other man was elderly and alone as well. I pick up on physical cues and read people pretty well. He was depressed and lonely. He watched the other four as though he’d like to be part of the group, but he was across the room and they were at a table that only seated four. I felt sorry for that man.
He didn’t feel comfortable inserting himself into a conversation the way I do. He wanted and needed the emotional connection, but he denied himself because he didn’t want to intrude. I know at least two of the men in the klatch could see him. I also noticed the table was one of those that expanded.
The problem was he was just part of the background to the men in the group. If they had seen him the way I did, I think they would have welcomed him.
How often are the people around you just part of the background? How often could you brighten the day for both of you just by inviting someone to sit with you?