Being cooped up in a windowless room all day is not necessarily my favorite way to spend a Saturday. Yet given the predominance of industry events held over weekends, those Indoor Saturdays and Sundays can really add up. After spending the day discussing intellectual property and its protection, my brain needed a rescue effort, so I decided to walk back to where I was staying.
About six miles. Clearly I did not wear heels to this event.
My thoughts? There was plenty of light and I thought the trip might take about 2 hours or so. If I got tired carried my bag or my feet rebelled, I’d find alternate transportation along the way.
Less than 20 minutes into my journey, I came upon a Vietnam Veterans’ memorial.
Why not? I had plenty of time to visit and pay my respects.
It was nearly empty. I guess 5:45pm on a chilly Saturday is hardly peak hours. It was quiet and I stood and took it all in. I read the engravings and sensed the soldiers whose words were displayed for all to see. I moved slowly, walking through to view of the memorial. There were flowers and young man there, but I hardly noticed them as I gazed at the words and dates engraved on the other side. The wind was strong and in spite of the gusts, I fixed myself upon completing my mission of taking in the site and it’s meaning.
And then the young man moved. He moved to the flowers, some of which were on easels that had been blown over. I vaguely remembered seeing the flowers before. In fact, I had walked right by them. Part of me even saw that they had been knocked and spilled on the ground, but I hadn’t really noticed. It hadn’t registered.
The easels at gravesites and memorials are not always the sturdiest. These were no exception, and it was quite clear that the wind had blown them over. In the slow motion seconds that passed since the man’s movement caught my eye, I saw him struggle against the wind to right the tangled easels.
“Can I give you a hand?”
In the briefest of moments, the two of us righted the easels, and set them to be less vulnerable to the wind. We hardly said anything as we did this, just the basics to coordinate our efforts. After everything was restored, we each resumed our own private moment, and then bid each other well. The young man went on his way, his small knapsack in tow. I hadn’t noticed that before either.
I stood there for a moment in gratitude. In a moment, that man changed my experience and my connection to those memorialized. I had seen those flowers, but I wasn’t aware of them and had done nothing about them. What a gift he gave me.
How often do we let each other wake ourselves up? Every day is filled with potential moments where someone is intentionally or unintentionally, bringing something to our attention. But how often do we notice? How often does it register? And how would we respond if it did?