As we all knew it would, the foggy weather has finally passed and the rains have returned.
Now, I'm not complaining. Rain is a part of life here in the Pacific Northwest, and I accept that. The winter rains must fall, but spring will come and the whole world will rise up again in the light.
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This morning, I was out running errands in the rain. After a quick stop at the grocery store, I was cruising through the parking lot on the drive in front of the store when a grandmotherly woman suddenly ran out in front of me, without even glancing my way. I jammed on the brakes, and in an instant I understood what she was doing.
An older gentleman - probably in his eighties but seemingly quite fit for his age - had fallen down. From what I could tell, his wife (for it was obvious that this woman was his wife) had dropped him off in front of the store and gone to park the car. In the meantime, he had attempted to step up the curb onto the raised landscaping area in front of the store, tripped or stumbled, and had fallen to his hands and knees on the bark.
My instincts were to throw my car into park, jump out and rush over to help him. But his wife had already reached him, pulled him to his feet and was asking him if he was alright. I could see right away that he was embarrassed and tried to shake off her attention and concern. He was not unkind or rough with his wife in any way, but I could see how humiliated he felt to have to rely on his wife's physical strength to literally pick him up off the ground. I felt a wave of compassion for him, and quickly decided to stay in my car, saving him any further shame.
Then I noticed something else. Briskly crossing the drive in front of me, a second man, about the same age and physical stature as the first, had obviously witnessed the fall and was now joining the scene. This man nodded politely to the woman but focused his attention on the man who had fallen. Clearly concerned, the newcomer did something that really impressed me: before he spoke a single word, he looked the fallen man square in the face and then held out his hand for a handshake. As the first man accepted this greeting, I saw him straighten his shoulders and stand taller than he had before.
The men began to talk matter-of-factly. I couldn't hear their words but I knew that the second man was asking the first man if he was alright. Rather than recoiling from this concern, the man stood proud and confident, explaining what had happened and assuring the concerned citizen that he was just fine.
A firm handshake. A direct eye-to-eye connection. An unemotional assessment of the situation.
These three manly gestures transformed this incident by restoring the fallen man's dignity. No response from his wife, or from me, for that matter, would have repaired his wounded pride so quickly and completely.
Sometimes, men fall down. And when they do, they need other men to help them rise up again.
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For more stories about late winter and early spring, try these: