by Bob Kohut
I am a child of the 1960’s who was always a bit skeptical of many of the “feel good” fads so popular back then. Later in life when I first learned of the birth of the field of positive psychology I was a bit skeptical yet again.
However, a lot of what they say appeals to my old fashioned common sense. One area I really think has promise is the idea of engaging others as a way of adding meaning to your own life. Something happened to me this summer that drove that notion home, and I’d like to share the story with you.
We had a huge storm blow through and in its wake we found our entire neighborhood without power. Of course I’ve been through power outages before, but this one lasted a full thirty hours. The lights went around 6:00 P.M. in the midst of skies still dark and angry. I stepped out the door to see if the power was out everywhere, or just on my street. Most of my neighbors had done the same. And then it began.
All up and down the street people were moving from their porches to the sidewalks and congregating in small groups, talking to each other. I wandered down to the first group and began what would become a three day odyssey all over the neighborhood in search of others.
On the first night I found people were mostly chatting about the storm and sharing stories of massive trees that had blown down only a few blocks away. With every group I found, the conversation varied little. But by the morning of the second day, that began to change.
Perhaps because we were resigned to the fact this outage wasn’t going to be fixed anytime soon, the nature of the conversations took a different turn. People began to share stories about their families, their jobs, what they liked to do and the things they didn’t like to do. In essence, we were discovering each other.
I continued to walk the neighborhood and I met wonderful people I had never even seen before. I have lived here more than thirty years and I even encountered some other old-timers I had never met. My favorite was an elderly lady I had observed peeking out from behind her drapes watching me as I walked by with my two large dogs. The power outage forced her out to a chair on her front porch from which I heard her first “hello.” I had always assumed she was just an old recluse but in fact, she is a delightful lady full of tales about life and living that would inspire anyone. At 90 years old and still living alone, she is truly a walking history book to be treasured. And now, I do.
(Look for part two of this lovely tale soon!)