I spontaneously decided to meet my daughters in San Francisco last Saturday. They were already going. I had planned to “lay low” at home to “recover from an event I had led the night before. A phone call Saturday morning for a simple check in on their way to the Oakland Zoo made us all aware I had no appointments that day and could meet them, if I so chose. Hmmm. My wheels started turning. I really wanted to just “refill” that day. Getting out of the house would better ensure that since I couldn’t even do “stuff around the house” then. And why not take advantage of the opportunity to connect with both girls at once. Now in their twenties and living on opposite ends of California with me in the middle, such occasions don’t just come along everyday. One “FYI text” later to them and I was in the shower getting ready to hit the road. The plan was I would find a garage to park in, walk North Beach and China town near Tony’s Pizza on Stockton, (the ultimate destination for dinner), and await their text signaling they arrived and were parking so I could head over and get our name in for a table.
I was determined to slow down, be present to myself and all I encountered, all that was sacred, and simply refill. It’s amazing how challenging that can be. At least for those of us who live in a United States context that constantly seduces us into speeding up, doing as much as possible in a day, and looking past people and places with head down or up in the clouds focused on anything else but what’s right before us. Even as I finished showering and was getting dressed and ready, I found myself fighting some weird urge that I really needed to get out the door. But I wasn’t on any time schedule! Mantra till I left: slow down, step back, breath deep, be right here.
It was a lovely drive in. The hills across to the bay area are like a luscious rolling green carpet right now due to so much rain this year. The sky was blue. The black cows on the luscious rolling green carpet stood out in a lovely way. Picturesque. I knew once in the city the part I was least looking forward to was parking. Should I brave the streets wondering for sure if I was parking somewhere “allowed” and dealing with folks frustrated waiting for me to park? Would a garage be easier, even safer, more sensible on several fronts. I knew a little garage I loved that was reasonable, actually, right off North Beach so up Columbus to Filbert I went. I was greeted by a delightful man, José, who smiled, and joked with me about the cost when I asked telling me, “once I tell the price, if you don’t park here it will go up if you come back.” Because I had now long slowed way down, and so was standing still looking right into his eyes, I noticed José’s short build, his gentle jovial face, and the way his dark eyes really seemed to dance with joy. I offered him any of my travel snack vegetables or the apple I had if he got hungry at all working. He told me he hoped I had a great time, the times the garage prices went up and when the garage closed for the night. I told him I’d be back long before then, because I was meeting my young adult daughters spontaneously, at Tony’s. José took time with me to reflect on the importance of family, and special opportunities such as mine today. Then he told me how he knew Tony when he first got started. And how even after he got famous, when he came into the garage to pick up his car he brought José a pizza one night. José laughed as he shared “O my gaaawd, I went home and you know I ate that whole thing!” I said “what a thoughtful thing, to bring you the pizza”. And he reflected back about how “yes, people are too stressed and need to slow down like we were to talk together” … that “it is much better for us all”. I agreed, and reflected back, “wouldn’t the world be so better off if we stopped more often like this to make eye contact, and talk with just together”. He agreed. We parted ways. And I walked out of the garage to begin my walk until the expected incoming “FYI text.”
I was glad I decided to park more than the car that day. Because I parked myself in front
of José rather than rushing out of the garage once my car was cared for, I really saw and
connected with a human being. And not only that, we heard part of one another’s stories, beginning a relationship. When I came back and José brought my car up, I offered my apple again and he took it. He was going to be there yet till midnight. I found myself sending him good thoughts much of the way home.
Human and humility share the same root. Both basically mean, “the ground of being”. It takes slowing down to regain or return to the ground of our being. It’s going to take a lot more slowing down for human beings everywhere to see one another, connect, and begin the multitude of relationships with once strangers needed to transform isolation and desolation of all kinds into thriving connected community. Where many then have more gentle jovial faces and eyes that seem to dance with more joy. We
desperately need to return to that sacred ground of being in this world. It’s what we were created for and to be about. Next time you go somewhere, take an apple, and see if you can park more than your car. Share a bite of something good with the first person you encounter. Savor where it takes you, and where it may be taking the world. You just may discover, like me, you can look forward to parking, after all.