It really was crowded and I have no idea why. I was at the local mall on one of my1)getaway-from-it-all visits. When things begin to 2)blur and my mind is nearly at a dead stop, I know it’s time to take a break. In the winter I head for the mall. It goes back to my childhood when we would go window shopping on a Saturday evening just to get out of the house for a while. We also sat in our car at a local shopping centre 3)munching on a favorite treat and just watching people as they walked by. So sitting in the mall is a comfortable place for me. I don’t stay long. You’ll never see me 4)slumped over snoring like some of the old guys. I don’t gather with others in conversation nor do I bring 5)a deck of cards and sit in the food court. I reenergize and move on.
Today though, my people watching skills were at a peak. The place was 6)buzzing. There were three benches gathered together facing each other and I was fortunate to find one spot at the end. There was a mix of people of all ages and a 7)constant flow of shoppers passing by. Suddenly there was a bit of a 8)ruckus. A beautiful young girl appearing to be about 12 years old approached a woman sitting on the bench nearby me. The woman said, “Why don’t you sit with me for a while?” She seemed quiet and a bit reflective at first glance, but suddenly started to moan and 9)whine about things. There obviously wasn’t room for her and she became quite upset.
“But where do I 10)fit in? There’s nowhere for me to be. I just want to be somebody...be happy...belong!” the young girl said.
There was more to this than not having a seat on the bench. This was a young lady struggling to discover who she was and where she belonged. I was about to offer my seat to her when an older gentleman sitting next to the woman got up and left. I think he just didn’t want to get involved. But if you know me by now, I saw this as an opportunity to jump right in.
“It’s not just a seat you’re looking for is it?” I said as I looked at the young girl.
“What? Are you talking to me?” she said.
“Yes, I am.” I replied
“No, it’s not just a seat.” she said
“I can’t tell you I remember being your age. But I can tell you that somewhere about that time is when I started to hurt.” was my response.
“You hurt? Was there something wrong?” she said
“Not hurt in a physical, somebody-beat-me-up kind of way. But I hurt all over because I wanted to fit in with life. Not just friends, but the world. Not just school, but when I looked in the mirror. I wanted to see me. I didn’t even know who that was I was looking at.”
“Mum, see he knows how I feel,” she said as she turned toward the lady next to her.
“Sir, I’ve been telling her the same thing. But because I’m her mum, it doesn’t sound the same. It sounds like criticism,” the woman said.
“I know. I have two sons. I am trying to find an interpreter who speaks youth,” I said with a laugh.
Then looking at the young girl I said, “I wish I could tell you that this will all go away. It never goes away, it evolves. It changes from these issues of youth into new challenges of life, of growing up and then growing old. Oh, you will get a sense of who you are. You will one day suddenly seem to understand what you want. But the world changes right along with you and suddenly those dreams that once were so important to you fade in comparison to new visions. Things that you could not possibly see then, but were in truth there all along will suddenly appear. You’ll look in the mirror many times in your life and question yourself. It’s good to do that. Because you can’t lie to that person. You can’t pretend to be something or someone else. That reflection doesn’t lie.”
“So I’ll struggle with this forever?” she asked me.
“No, you’ll struggle now until you realize the value of the search for the real you. Believe it or not this is a good thing. You are like a rose. Until now you were just a small 11)bud developing and growing. Now you are starting to bloom, open up. These outside petals are the questions you just asked: Where do I fit in? I just want to be somebody...be happy...belong! You are just opening up to the beauty that’s inside you,” I said.
“But maybe I don’t want to be a rose,” she said smartly.
“Great! Then start with that. Ask yourself—if I were a flower what would I want to be? Then be it! Excellent! Don’t settle for a rose. Be a 12)petunia, a daisy, a 13)violet! Then think how that flower lives. How does it grow? What does it need to grow? How does it possibly get so beautiful when it started out from nothing?”
“But I’ve been growing too long!” she said.
Then I shared this story:
“In the far East the people plant a tree called the Chinese bamboo. During the first four years they water and 14)fertilize the plant with seemingly little or no results. Then the fifth year they again apply water and fertilizer. In five weeks’ time the tree grows 90 feet.”
“Wow,” she said.
“Now my question to you is: did it grow 90 feet in five weeks or five years?”
She thought for a moment and then with a relaxing sigh quietly said, “Five years and I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a flower at all. I want to be a bamboo!”
We all laughed. The young girl turned and hugged her mum. I stood up and said my goodbyes and as I turned around to look at them one more time, I swear when the young girl stood up, she looked so much taller. I think perhaps she grew up a little today. But we never stop growing.