Made a new friend last night. I was on a mission to procure ornamental aggregate for a garden feature. The merchant was in the process of moving premises - hundreds of tons of pebbles and cobbles to be moved from here to wherever. It was good of them to entertain a customer given the logistics of relocating fragments of a mountain, or at least a mountain of fragments. But I knew what I wanted - they said they had it - somewhere. So I arranged to meet the man, a very helpful if a tad late, man.
Waiting at the gate, no one around, phoned for the umpteenth time and discovered there are two gates, half a mile apart! No problem - my new friend said he would come and pick me up in his van, which he did. His apologies were genuine and his determination to fix the hassle I'd had just getting to the place was even genuiner! Should say I'd just finished at College and was dressed in some of my best clothes. So well dressed academic theologian and gravel shifting friend rummaged around the stacks of bags till we found what we wanted - no facilities for extracting the right amount I needed. So we started fishing for the best coloured and shaped cobbles in the 2 tonne bag. At which point my new friend suggested I take off my "guid jaickit". Right enough. 20 minutes later he decided we had enough for the job and we lugged it to the van, loaded it without a crane, and without doing mischief to muscle or disc, and dusted off hands, trousers and the "guid jaickit".
The point of all this is really simple, but not trivial. Someone I hadn't met before put himself out considerably for a tie wearing, dark-suited, not over-big, academic, happily mining in a large bag of stones, and the conversation ranged from the chances of the business surviving, to family challenges, to the problems of being on a salary with no provision for overtime - the last point his complaint, not mine:) Part of who I try to be is someone who tries to see each person as someone like myself, just trying to make life work, and trying to make sure those who share our lives are cared for, looked after, and that if the choice is to make someone's day better or worse, will always opt for the former. My new friend seemed to see life the same way. He could have gone home. Switched off his mobile. Told me to come back he didn't have a key to the place. But decided to make my day better.
So in the end, mission accomplished, conversation enjoyed amongst the dust, and two people who might never see each other again, spoke about important things, and reached out across those barriers too easily taken too seriously. It was an unexpectedly graced hour, and touched me in deep places that leave me still wondering about all those possible friendships just waiting the right encounter. Pondering too, how to live more generously and with that openness of heart that simply reaches out from one to another for no other reason than the recognition of someone else who happens to be here, now, and walking the same way.