I’ve just been working from a coffee shop. As I was typing away on my keyboard an elderly woman came and sat on the table opposite. After a while a man who I assume was her son came and set down their drinks. The son then proceeded to pick up and read a paper, completely ignoring his elderly mother.
Ever since she sat down I could feel her gaze upon me, clearly hoping for conversation. I was busy and trying not to engage. Then I realised this poor woman was surrounded by people but no-one was talking to her. I began thinking about how isolating that must feel and started feeling pretty angry with her son. Why wasn’t he talking to her? Taking someone out for coffee then ignoring them is really rude not to mention unfeeling! I started wondering about her life. Does she live alone? Is this the only time today when she will be around other people? Is this the only opportunity she will have for conversation?
I began toying with the idea of telling her son what I thought. Then I got worried that if I did maybe he’d stop taking her out altogether. So I decided to pack up my laptop and come home to prevent me doing anything rash. But I resolved to chat to her first. As I started packing up she started making conversation. She remarked on my typing and we had a lovely chat about technology and how different things are today. Her son kept his head down and didn’t look up until I started making my excuses to leave. I hope he felt embarrassed, I hope he picked up on my vibe and could feel my disdain towards him as I could pick up on his mum’s loneliness.
I can’t pretend to spend lots of time with older people. I don’t volunteer to take people to the shops, I don’t go into elderly neighbours houses and make them coffee. But I do generally try and take 5 minutes out of my day if I think a little conversation, a little contact with another person will help someone. We all sense people at bus stops, in supermarkets and in coffee shops who would benefit from a quick hello. I’ve resolved to listen to my intuition more and try to give a bit more time to strangers who could benefit from a little chat.
I’m having second thoughts about whether or not I should have said something to the son now. Maybe being told by an impartial observer that his behaviour wasn’t acceptable would have made him think? I’d be mortified if someone did that to me. Would love to hear your thoughts.