A Southern Stroll

September 21, 2019

My husband, Ben, and I begin our mornings with a coffee walk. Let’s be honest, it’s a stroll. He’s a Southerner and enjoys all things Southern, especially many Southerners’ slow pace for everything (difficult for a Northern Virginia-born gal on a mission).

We make a cuppa and embark on our merry way, leisurely meandering the streets of downtown Knoxville. We like to go early to catch the morning sunrise peaking over the sleepy tops of the Smokey Mountains and the cool breeze along the Tennessee River that accompanies the crisp morning air.

On a recent morning stroll we passed a young, homeless woman we’d previously seen sitting on a bench. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience as Knoxville, like many downtown areas, has a fairly large homeless population. However, despite seeing this young woman before, we never had the opportunity to interact with her.

As we approached, she glanced up then asked, gently, “Do you have any food?” We didn’t and rarely carry money on our strolls so we couldn’t accommodate her request. “I’m sorry. We don’t have any this morning,” Ben said. Again, nothing special about the exchange; however, there was something about the disheartened look upon her face and the way she hugged herself tightly that struck us. We continued walking for a moment before deciding we needed to go home and pack a bag of food and deliver it to the young woman.

Approaching the bench, the woman remained unchanged, holding herself tightly as if to comfort her hunger with a hug. She glanced up with a glimmer of hope that immediately disappeared as we neared – I imagine she figured we still couldn’t assist her. When we stopped at the bench to offer her the bag of food – granola bars, popcorn, an apple, and a cold bottle of water – she said something that will forever stick with me.

With a sincere smile and a gentle tone, she said, “You actually heard me! No one ever stops to hear me. Thank you!”

A simple request – to be heard.

How often do you race through life, not taking the time to slow down, be present, and listen to the things that really matter in that moment? I am guilty more than I care to recognize.

I rush our morning strolls.

I rush to the next to-do, without expressing gratitude for the previous achievement. I rush moments that are meant to be memories.

I rush to talk instead of embracing silence to listen.

I rush, rush, rush.

My husband’s slow, Southern ways remind me to slow down and truly see and hear what matters most; to be present to the needs of a moment.

Perhaps you are running late and rushing to the office or overwhelmed with your ever-growing, never shrinking to-do list and feeling like you can’t simply stop. I encourage you to take a moment, it doesn’t have to be a long one, to slow down. You might be surprised by what you hear.

Do you find yourself rushing? What do you do to slow down?

Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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