The friendly universe

Luke: friendly and trusting!

I started going to the Manchester Thrift store 10 years ago. Oddly enough, I was somewhat intimidated by the volunteers…most were older women who lived in Manchester (a wealthy town) and wanted something to do with their free time. One woman in particular, Barbara, made me quite uncomfortable. I would try to be friendly with her, always saying something like, “Hi, or Good morning” but she rarely even acknowledged me. It seemed like she almost scowled when I entered the store.

I started imagining that she was thinking negative things about me like, “Why does she shop at the thrift store? This is for people who need help.” As time went by, I began thinking that I just wouldn’t go back there. Then one day, when a woman ahead of me was checking out, I noticed that Barbara was not acknowledging her either. The woman assisting at the checkout said, “You need to speak up. Barbara is almost completely deaf.”

Everything changed in that moment. It was my perception of the situation that was completely wrong and all I needed to do, literally, was speak up. Barbara has become one of my most favorite volunteers. She is 90 and funny and sweet and always saves me good books, after she reads them (the last one was The Help). I believe that we live in a friendly universe but we have to drop our unfriendly, fearful, insecure thoughts to access it.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”. Mark Twain

19 thoughts on “The friendly universe

  1. Just finished reading the Help myself. Can hardly wait to see the movie, heard it was very good! This post really heped me today…thanks again!

  2. Thanks, Mary. I love that quote! After reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, I have always remembered the one agreement – Don’t take anything personally – the most. I often have to work at this, but it helps when my first impression is that someone is unfriendly or maybe that I have done somethng wrong. I try to believe that it likely has nothing to do with me. Everyone has their own stuff, whether it is deafness or a recent break-up or not feeling well. And I can’t wait to read The Help!

  3. Yes! How often do we (I) attribute what I perceive to be negativety toward me, to something about me, as opposed to challenges that the other person might be experiencing. Hearing loss, vision changes, stress, daily distraction, all get in the way of accurate communication. Thanks for a helpful reminder to be open and accepting, and to welcome alternate explanations as learning opportunities.
    From Fran

  4. Being a transplant to the small town I live in, I at times thought others were being stand-offish or unfriendly, then I decided maybe they were just shy and unsure how to start a conversation, either way, I felt left out. I’ve since embraced what might be a “Dr. Phil-ism”…and it’s not a quote…you can’t control what others say or do but you can control how you react to them.
    It’s good for all of us to remember that it’s not always about ME…as others have pointed out above, everyone has their own things that they are dealing with that we aren’t privy to.
    Regarding Barbara, how wonderful, Mary, that you became aware of her hearing issue and with that awareness, you have developed a friendship mutually rewarding…how wonderful!!
    love and hugs, Marian
    ps…I think I over-compensate by talking to everyone. People will always remember how you make them feel…think that may be Maya Angelou

  5. My goodness, Mary, I can’t help but think how this sort of thing has happened in my life so many times. I suspect that we’re all ‘centred on ourselves, beings’ and that we are the centre of our own universe. Yet, to be able to step outside ourselves and look at life’s happenings with a little different perspective is what it’s all about. As I grow older, I try not to take things personally but try to remind myself to step outside of my initial reaction and into a more neutral spot. I’m not always successful; not at all for what other universe do I have but my own. So this is a good reminder for me. I shall print it off and tack it up in my workroom.

    SandyP in Canada

  6. Yes. Yes. Yes…Ditto to every comment this morning. And Diana, thanks for the reminder of The Four Agreements. I would have felt and thought the same way as you did Mary. The hardest thing is to remember all the wonderful and meaningful lessons we have learned, internalize them as part of our DNA, and just naturally apply them when things happen in our lives. Most often, intellectually I can rationalize and tell myself that it’s not me, but I still feel/react emotionally. That hypersensitivity…the ‘what might I have done?’ seems to jump in first! I gotta work real hard to not let that happen the next time…and remembering this post will be my saving grace. Thanks for the great lesson Mary!

    P.S…loved The Help too. Haven’t see the movie yet, but plan to.

  7. Reading Maria’s comment about Dorothy’s shoes reminded me of “not knowing what someone else’s life is unless you could walk in their shoes”. The other day I was on the freeway and three times got stuck behind someone going under the speed limit of 55 – now I’m not a speeder at all, but I just had to move on and pass them. In one case, the personally was quite elderly, and then there was a young woman, and I thought, – maybe she is just sad today. Have you ever felt a bit blue and you notice that you just don’t want to move as fast? That’s happened to me driving too, so I just thought of all these people on all these lanes, and each one is going through their day, some starting a new job, maybe more facing a loss, some harried and overworked, some grieving, some simply young and carefree AND teens! (watch out) – but we all travel these same paths. So much nicer to let someone pass you without getting all worked up or projecting – someday we will appreciate being given the right of way, or a simple wave to be welcomed into the flow. Thanks Mary for starting our days with so much we can take with us.

  8. Thanks for the great picture of Luke and the timely message. In the past few weeks, not taking things personal has been a struggling theme. You make the message so much clearer!

  9. I just hit “print” on Luke’s sweet face and thought he’s getting a fan club, nationwide! (up on my dryer he goes, only magnetic surface I’ve got 🙂 Remember Mr. Rogers on PBS for many of us when we were raising our kids? It looks like Luke could be saying “I like you Just! the way you are!” Good ol’ Mr. Rogers. . .

  10. Hi Everyone – good thoughts and great book The Help. I read it & saw the movie; one of those rare times ( as with To Kill a Mockingbird)) where the movie was true to the book. Enjoy your reading.

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