To put it mildly, the world has been a bit out of sorts. People are being protective of themselves and their families and for good reason. But people are also often acting out in negative or destructive ways because they are fearful.
When you see a situation, it is easy to bring up past memories of an experience or even a story heard that triggers a fear reaction. Or, you project what could happen also based upon a fear of possibilities.
This week, a few of my coworkers and I faced one of these situations.
I showed up to work early along with one of my newer team members. I unlocked the door, put away my things and sat down to start the day when I noticed a young man walking down the sidewalk in front of our building. In a flash, I had the premonition that he was coming into the building – we don’t have an OPEN sign, nor do we project an open to the public feel. It was still dark and was raining (it had been snowing at my house when I left, but that is a few thousand feet higher, so it hadn’t started snowing in Denver just yet). I normally keep the doors locked when I arrive early, but this morning, I had unlocked it and left it unlocked for the other gal figuring we were fine with two of us in the building. I saw the gentleman disappear from my view as he went around the corner to the front of the building. We are on a corner with windows on all sides, so I waited to see if I would see him walk past the other wall of windows as his path took him on his way. Instead, I could hear the faint movement of the outer door and then there he was as he opened the inner door to our office space. I looked up and asked if there was something we could do for him. Thinking about it, that’s just a polite way of saying “what are you doing here man?”
He stood there in a tshirt and baggy pants dripping wet, eyes down like a beat puppy and asked if he could just sit in one of our chairs for a bit and warm up. As a rule, we have a strict policy of no solicitation and in that spirit, no strays, wanderers or any random bloke who might just be walking by.
Per our policy, I had started to say that we couldn’t really let him just hang out, but he really did have a desperate look about him, so instead of the no that my rational mode was projecting, I said that yes, he could have a seat.
He sat down and bent over. Possibly to keep as much of the dripping off of the seat and as to physically curl into a tighter position to garner some body heat.
We asked where it was headed and he said he was needing to walk to downtown Denver and he had forgotten his coat and hadn’t realized it was so cold. (It had been beautiful warm and in the 60’s the past few days, so maybe he didn’t realize the weather was changing and it was to snow today)
It’s interesting how your mind processes scenarios so quickly. Mine went from “you can’t let a strange man stay in here possibly putting myself and my team member at risk”, to “what do I have to help this person in need who is right in front of me?”
I remembered I had a fleece jacket in the car that I had been using out on my lunch walks when it was chilly. I got up and said I had to go to my car for a moment and fetched it. I hurriedly went through the pockets to make sure I didn’t have anything like old Kleenex or something and walked back in and presented it to him. I explained it was for him to have and while it wouldn’t keep him dry, it would provide another layer. He gratefully put it on right away, zipping it up and curling once more to ball up some more heat.
A minute or two later, two of our sales guys walked in, clocked in and gave me the ‘what the heck’ look all the while saying good morning and asking what was going on? I was a little fretful of their reactions as these two have been hyper vigilant about the social distancing and keeping spaces sanitary with the covid 19 outbreak threat.
From their positions at their desks right behind me, they kinda went through the same question and answer with the dude as we had. Then, one of the guys walked over and handed him his big thick flannel shirt/jacket that he had just worn on his way into work.
Our now defrosting visitor, took his coat and put it next to him seemingly not sure what he was going to do with it. It was at this time that my team member excused herself to go out to her van and after retrieving a few dollars, gave them to him and told him to go take the light rail as Denver was far too far to be attempting to walk in the freezing rain.
I looked at the clock just then and realized that I should make an announcement of sorts. I said that while we were all ok offering shelter for him, the owner would show up in 5-10 minutes, and he would not be ok with the situation and I just didn’t want to see him faced with negativity along with the perils of his morning thus far.
He said he understood and picked up the flannel and put it on over the fleece jacket and said thanks to everyone. He then stopped as he was exiting through our inner doors and asked in a somewhat timid voice: “do you know who I am?”
It was as if we all took a second to scan our memory banks for recognition from experience or media as all of us wondered for a moment if we had someone famous among us and we all said “no” in unison. To which I added, “should we?”
I couldn’t fully see him at this point, but it seemed like he shrugged and left.
The feeling I think that we all got, was that he thought someone must know him for nearly all of us to give something of ourselves without prompt or asking. And who knows, maybe he had said a prayer before stepping in that we would allow a few minutes of shelter. and that prayer allowed each of us to identify with that need to just feel secure for a few minutes -remembering when we’ve misjudged what we had stepped into on any given day. In hindsight, I think we could have responded with , “we don’t know you, but we do recognize the needs we all have”
In a time when we are honestly wary about which coworkers to even let into the building for fear of what germs they have picked up upon, it was a good feeling to not let that cloud our helping out a stranger in need.
May we all grasp the thread of humanity and hold onto it pulling the good and heartfelt moments out of the chaos.
And as so many of the emails I get from customer, vendors and friends now say:
Take Care, Be Well and wash your hands.