Just a moment
May 17, 2011
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Get in, buy munchies and get out: this was the plan when I stopped at Safeway, before I met the stranger that is. I smiled and nodded awkwardly in the way that people do when they nervously try to remember who that other person is. Her nametag didn’t give me any clues about the previous times we had met; yet she explained to me that she had changed shifts and didn’t get to see me as often. If I had spoken with her before, the memory escaped me. Nevertheless, the stranger greeted me with a big smile and told me she was glad to see me again. I stood in front of the register convinced that this cashier had mistaken me as someone else, until she mentioned the late night cookie runs I make.
When I realized she was actually talking about me, I felt like my name had been picked out of a hat in a raffle. Safeway employees see hundreds of faces every day. As customers, we gather our groceries on autopilot without paying too much attention to what we are doing, much less to the person ringing us up. I didn’t know the cashier’s name, but she remembered me as a kind person and could pinpoint the giant cookies I always buy. When I exited the store that day I left with more than a mouthful of crumbs; I stuffed my face with the biggest smile my cheeks could accommodate.
“The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life,” says Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. It is easy to forget to be present in the moment when our minds are filled with thoughts, images and memories every second of the day. In order to enjoy each moment it is critical to empty our minds of any plans or ideas that might distract us from enjoying the “now.” If we stop living for the next moment, we experience how great our present moment is.
Sometimes it takes a stranger to break us out of our shell and remind us to be in the moment. A genuine smile is more than just a proper gesture; it is an invitation to share a happy moment. For that split second that we meet, we are interconnected with the person behind us in line, crossing the street in the opposite direction or beside us in class. Like photographs, brief encounters give people a small dose of who we are. By living in our minds we might miss the chance to make someone smile and bring them to their own present moment.
I am the first to admit that in the season of finals, all I think about is summer. My math class specifically has exhausted me to the point where “functions” is not a descriptive word about my brain, but what I have to master before I can enjoy my summer vacation. By thinking about my math final and longing for summer, I haven’t realized how beautiful the days have been lately.
If we transform the term “human beings” into “humans being” we get the recipe for a well lived lifetime. Being in the moment means seeing the sunlight and feeling its warmth on our skin. In beautiful Sonoma County, we have a million reasons to enjoy where we are and to witness the simplicity of life unfold. The beauty is wherever our feet are planted. By living in the moment we realize that having nowhere to go is just the right place to be.