Sunday, January 23, 2011

How Networkers Cross the Street And Other Secrets of a Happy Life

Like many things in India, crossing the street requires more courage and determination than one expects to have to come up with for such an everyday event. Street-crossing styles range from the terrified to the brazen, from conciliatory to let's-make-a-deal. It takes all kinds to make a world, but my favorite street crosser is The Networker.

She starts by making eye contact. There she is, standing confidently on the edge of the road, with no intention of wading in until she has someone's surprised attention. "Hello there!" her expression says. "You're a pedestrian at times, aren't you? You've been in this position too, right? You know you have." She never stops looking at the driver she has selected and before he knows it, he has stopped, almost against his will, and is smiling back at her as she moves out in front of his car.

I like her style because she's on to something fundamental. She knows there's more to life than crossing the street. And while she does want to get across (she's got appointments, she's got a schedule, she's got things to do), she also wants to change the world - one intersection at a time. She wants the guy who lets her go to feel good about doing it; so good that he will do it again for someone else. And again for someone else. And again. And again. Till it's a habit.

And when she's the driver herself, she remembers the pedestrian she once was and will be again and she startles those waiting patiently by the side of the road by stopping and waving them across. She watches their surprised and wary expressions, smiles encouragingly as they hesitate and then broadly as she sees them get the idea, sees them realize that she is really stopping for them and that they can take their time as they step out onto those mean streets that suddenly seem less menacing and more like friendly avenues which are as much theirs as hers.

I like her style because she knows that everything, even something as simple as crossing the street, is about relationships, about trust, about knowing that the other person could be me, and very soon will be me, and that how we treat the driver whose help we need, how we treat the pedestrian who needs us, will determine how the world will evolve - not only for us but for our children and for our children's children.

I like her style because she is being the change she wants to see in the world.


Cris McGowan said...

A few days ago I received some news that made it difficult to keep from crying at unexpected moments. A very dear friend - someone I've known since high school had her 32 year old son die completely unexpectedly. His name was Jarrod He was her only child.
I didn't really want to discuss it at work because sometimes you also have a job that is important and it needs to be done. So I kept it together at my work place and let the mascara run down my cheeks on my way to and from work.
So I was stopped at a red light and the tears were rolling down my cheeks and I experienced the Hawaii version of a Networker sliding up beside a woman crying alone in her car.
I sensed rather than saw the window rolling down in the car next to me. A tita was driving. A tita is a term for a very tough Hawaiian woman. I love titas! They are truly in a magnificent class of their own. We were both alone in our vehicles. Me in my old Hyundai and her in her big new truck.
She gave me such a look of compassion that I think I cried even harder.
She said with such sweetness, "Are you OK?" I choked out that the only son of a good friend had just died. She gave no thought to the traffic on either side of us and leaned over to say "Oh, I'm so very sorry. But he is in a better place now".
The light turned green. She waited for me to respond. I told her how much it meant to me that she had taken the time to say exactly what I needed to hear - right there at a stop light.
I learned a lesson today. She too, is on to something fundamental. There is more to life than crossing the street or making that light.
Thank you, my friend.

Jo Chopra McGowan said...

Oh, Crissie! I'm so sorry to hear this!

Thanks so much for sharing it, though. What a beautiful story.

Do I know your friend?

Love you, darling.