This is a story about keeping our hearts open, even when they are broken, and the willingness to connect with others. Yesterday, I went to our local grocery store to eat. I ordered two slices of vegan pizza. Normally, I would just take it back to my home office but I've been so busy lately, getting out felt good. I sat down at a community table, catty corner to an older woman who was eating a salad.
Being an introvert, I rarely start up conversation but I did smile as I sat down.
A few bites into my pizza, and she said, "You know I should've ordered what you ordered! This salad isn't filing me up at all and I'm gonna be hungry again in 30 minutes."
I offered her my second slice of pizza, "Here, I have two, take this piece."
"No, no, I couldn't," she declined. "Besides, I'm allergic to milk."
I responded with a smirk, "Well then it was meant to be because its vegan!" And with that, she gratefully accepted...
This opened the conversation about how long I'd lived in Sedona and my long-standing roots there. Other superficialities exchanged until she asked about my work.
The look on her face told a story. I imagined at some point I would hear that story. She said, "I'd like to know what you do and why you do it."
I told her about my work with those who have suffered immense pain and trauma from the death of a beloved and precious one. I told her that I believed grieving people are the only ones who can change the world by remaining connected to their grief and trauma. That the way to compassion and peace in this sometimes ugly and sometimes beautiful world is through the cultivation of compassion and peace within our own sometimes ugly and sometimes beautiful hearts. She started to cry.
When she was just a little girl, her father died. And, her mother emotionally checked out. She "never cried" during childhood. It wasn't "done" in their family. And she began to tell me about her own life riddled with confusion and disconnection and a lack of purpose. I acknowledged the pain of that little girl, how horrible it is to lose someone so important in your life to death especially as such a young child, and then the peripheral losses, the collateral losses of her mother, her family system... Still misty-eyed, she described how she'd been a wanderer, finding it difficult to grow roots, despite her advanced years, and began to wonder if - just maybe - she moved from state to state so often through her life because she was "running" from her own emotions.
When the conversation was ending, she "had so much to think about... maybe a lot of work to do."
And when she turned to leave, she said, "You didn't just give me pizza. You fed my soul. Thank you."
As it turns out, I didn't need that second slice. She fed my soul too.