Life lesson

A chance encounter on Canal Street resonates deeply

BRATTLEBORO — While I was out walking one recent morning, an elderly woman struck up a conversation with me.

She began by telling me a bit about herself, that she resides at a nearby nursing home. She said she is the youngest and most physically fit resident there, so they “spring” her daily for a walk alone.

Last year, she said, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I couldn't even finish my sentence of “I am so sorry to hear that” before she told me that she wasn't.

She said she feels great (at this time), and that life will and has always been what the person living it makes it to be.

I explained a bit about myself, and she seemed all too content to switch the conversation over to thanking me for my (seemingly-small-to-me) service to our community.

She and I then went our own separate ways, but in that instant I knew I was left with something that would not disappear as quickly as this spirited woman had.

* * *

Yes, I hear all the time that “life is what you make it.” But have I ever let the thought do much more than pass from one of my ears to the other? Up until that moment, I had thought so. Oh, how wrong I have been.

This truly remarkable woman, as she nears the end of her own life, is out and about in our community reminding me (and, I am sure, others she encounters) that there is still time to find beauty somewhere in our chaotic lives.

During our conversation, she was citing facts about our community, all the while planting in my head the message that if we could just help one another a bit more, Brattleboro would go from being a good place to live to a great one.

* * *

Most people might have the impression that helping out requires financial assistance.

Surprisingly enough, however, I believe we would find that something as seemingly simple as saying hello, or even just a smile in passing to those we encounter on our daily travels, would set forth a chain of assistance to others, the likes of which this community might not have seen in a while.

I am sure that whoever coined the phrase “the best things in life are free” was referring to a “hello,” a “good morning,” or even just a smile.

That woman, whose name I did not learn, is proof positive of this concept for me.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates