I confess when I am alone in an elevator, I push the button to close the doors
as quickly as possible.
Elevators can be awkward.
Usually when I need an elevator, I seem to be in a hurry.
I definitely do not want to linger before arriving at my destination.
Last Thursday, I had an appointment with a specialist
as I have some blood levels which are being quite rebellious.
The consultation I thought would last 30 minutes spanned close
to 2 hours leaving me a bit sore from all the poking and prodding
and offering up more blood.
I raced to the elevator and was the only one waiting for that
familiar ding and lit up arrow to draw me closer to my car
in the parking garage below.
Of the four door options, I found the one with the gaping hole
and stepped inside.
I pressed the number button and perhaps assuming I was “safe”,
I didn’t push the close door arrows.
The doors were closing and I was exhaling as
a man straddled the threshold and stumbled inside,
He was white-haired and quite striking.
I quickly determined
if his floor choice needed to be pushed.
With a grin he told me we were going
the same direction and asked how I was.
I told him I was doing alright.
I reciprocated by asking him the identical question.
Without his smile leaving his face, he paused.
He glanced his eyes to the heavens which in this case,
was a cold metal ceiling and didn’t utter a word.
His pause was long enough that even
without our elevator encasing it would have felt awkward.
Silence reigned and I wanted to reach out
to touch his arm or even give him a hug.
But we were in an elevator and surely this gesture
would have broken protocol or etiquette.
It was a pause saturated with meaning.
When what felt like the final grain of sand had joined a
heaping mountain in the bottom of an hourglass,
“You know, just sitting in those rooms makes
my blood pressure go up.”
As the doors begin to slide apart and
this dear man strides to exit,
I nod and say,
“Yeah, they don’t give us lollipops or stickers
when we have been brave anymore.”
He turns and faces me as we are now
among the cars in the cool, dark dampness
of the underground garage.
“Man, that’s a good line.”
He is still wearing the smile.
The smile we have learned to assign ourselves
in our public lives.
The smile meant to shield the world from the inner
life residing in the dark, damp underground
place we park our fears and concerns.
I could see behind his smile and he knew I was not
just feeding him a line.
We parted as people in cars visually pleaded with us
to vacate our parking spots.
We separated by telling one another to take care.
I sat in my car and prayed for a man I will most
likely never see again.
I prayed he has people in his life who will wait with him
in the pause, even when it feels awkward and long.
I prayed they would remain after the words are uttered.
I prayed that he has comforting places where he can
wear whatever face he deems appropriate.
I prayed that he would be steadied when his pulse races.
a check-out line,
a cross walk,
or any other everyday place can be an opportunity
to gaze into someone’s eyes and offer them grace.
Each day we have the privilege to give others stickers
and lollipops of our affection and concern as they bravely
walk through a life filled with landmines.
Perhaps we all need to pause before we push
the doors closed.