Friendships and Fireflies
Jun 16, 2008
|Today was a day for running errands and taking care of business. From taking our RV in to have the generator serviced, to searching for a dentist so we could get our teeth cleaned, this was an ordinary day spent doing ordinary things. We saw no scenery and we visited no monuments or museums. We took no pictures, and we have nothing to show for this day except a clean generator, clean teeth and a lot of credit card receipts.
Yet it’s a good thing I have clean teeth because today made me smile. As I write this the next morning it still makes me smile - and how many days of our lives have the power to do that? Smile Power raises a day out of the ordinary and elevates it to the extra-ordinary. And pictures or no pictures, it etches that day into our memory.
Nothing funny happened today. These were not that kind of smiles. Humor is based on tragedy. The laughter it produces is our defense against pain, but today there was no pain. Nothing to defend against. Today’s smiles were a spontaneous reaction to joy - the joy of finding friendship and warmth in the people we met. If the jury was out on the people of New Jersey, it’s not anymore. Today I liked everyone I met.
I don’t expect that to last. There are always the exceptions to the rule, and I’m sure New Jersey has it’s share of the jerks and fools of the world. But we didn’t meet any of them today, and the people we did meet were so human and genuine that they turned a dull day of chores into a memorable day of experiences, and into a testimonial to the essential goodness of the common human being.
In our travels we’ve been to a lot of RV service centers and nowhere have we found people as nice as at the Camping World in Lakewood, New Jersey. They were knowledgeable, genuine, down to earth and friendly. We got there before they opened and interrupted their breakfast, but they never made us feel like a bother, and they took their time to answer every question we asked and explain every answer. The woman went to considerable pains to look up a recall notice for us on the Winnebago website, and they took a genuine interest in our concerns and took them seriously. What we wouldn’t give to have a service center like this back home in California!
Our next stop was at a dental clinic down the street. They managed to squeeze me in for an immediate cleaning and gave Madolyn an appointment for tomorrow. The young black woman who escorted me to the back and took my x-rays asked “How are you today?”. She was looking at the form I’d filled out, and when she turned to look at me she ignored my answer of ‘Fine, thanks’ and said, “Cancer?” Again, there was genuine concern in her eyes.
I told her about the prostate diagnosis and she said, “My father had that - and he’s had the surgery for it.” I asked her what he had done and how it went, and she said he’d had the implants and he was doing really well. We talked, as best we could given the paraphernalia she had to keep putting in my mouth, and it was as nice a conversation as I’ve ever had with a stranger. Before I left she made it a point to come over and say ‘goodbye’ and wish me well.
The hygienist was equally human, extremely fast and professional, and yet more than willing to talk as she worked. Like the other people we met today, she asked about us - our trip and how it was going? And like the others it was not just polite small talk, but asked with interest and a willingness to actually listen to the answer. She too shook hands and wished us well, as did the dentist who came in to look at the x-rays and do a cursory examination. When I paid the bill the Hispanic woman who ran the card wanted to hear more about our trip too.
Everyone looked you in the eyes, and in every pair of eyes the lights were on and there was someone at home. When I came out of the clinic Madolyn was at a Curves she’d discovered in the same mall. The RV was locked and the Curves had the windows papered over and a sign in the window WOMEN ONLY, I had to wait. When she came out we went to a restaurant across the street.
The black waitress was a big woman, and friendly. She wrote her name 'Darlene' followed by “Have a blessed day! :-) on the check. We got to talking and she said she used to travel when she was doing a prison ministry, but the demands of raising a bunch of foster children made her have to give it up. Her oldest is 17 now and she is looking forward to having the opportunity to travel again. Everywhere - good, decent, kindly people who took time out of their busy day to make two strangers feel at home. It was a blessed day, and that night when it got dark in the campground I saw fireflies! Lightning bugs we used to call them 100 years ago when I was a kid. Even they seemed to be saying, “Welcome to New Jersey.”