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Friday, June 18, 2010

People's essence

“It’s interesting to sit here, and watch the people,” our curious friend, Don, commented wearing a grin on his face. “That’s exactly what I was thinking,” I replied, amused. It was a family day at a theme park. My husband, our children and I were having a blast.  Our friend Don and his wife were with us. While our children were enjoying some of the park rides, we were sitting comfortably, observing the crowd of visitors walking around. 

People of all ages, sizes, and looks were at the park that day --Energetic kids, talking loudly in high pitch voices, demanding to go on rides and shouting for foods of all sorts; overdressed elderly women, walking slowly as though they were trying to catch up with the years gone by; vibrant and good looking teenage boys and girls, some of them indulging in romantic hugging and kissing, while the others were boastfully sharing their latest romantic tales.  

A young man caught my interest. He was sitting in a customized wheelchair, being assisted by a man who appeared to be his father. My unduly inquisitive mind tried to determine whether the young man had cerebral palsy or a prior brain injury. He was drinking from a sippy cup held by his caregiver. Quite a nurturing image, I thought. 

I immersed myself in the people’s worlds, as discreetly as possible for fear of being taken as an impertinent watcher.  Clothing color, accessories style, body movements, facial gestures, mannerisms, food preferences, and the choice of jewelry a person chose to wear that day, all subtleties not normally considered in detail, were my delight. It’s certainly amazing the multitude of niceties that one’s eye can capture within just a few minutes.  

My observant eye.  

Yet my inquisitive mind switched to a more interesting quiz. How much can it be inferred about people based only from their personal objects?   

A lot. 

Isn’t that an important part of the forensic sciences after all? 

While musing on the subject, I recalled a quite particular experience. Last year, I decided to volunteer at the church resale shop, a few hours a month. I thought it would be a noble and enjoyable time since I like sewing, ironing and making clothing look as neat and presentable as possible --My mother taught me to be meticulous with my clothes: no wrinkles, no holes, no stains were to be spotted.   

While unpacking and putting up donated clothes, my curiosity didn’t have to wait to find objects of interest: the donors themselves. I started to wonder about the people who had owned and enjoyed -or perhaps hated- these clothes. 

And the game started. 

I tried to visualize the middle- aged woman who might have donated the classy black and white, two-piece dress, or the young girl that may have given away the tank top that no longer fit her. 

But the game turned odd when I held up an extra-large pair of blue jeans. They had evidently been worn multiple times. It came to my mind that the jeans might have belonged to a young man. Strangely, I had the feeling he was anxious, and somewhat sad. I didn’t know why I was getting that feeling. I disliked what I was thinking, and set the jeans aside, attempting to focus on something else.  


An unexpected impulse drew me to check the jean’s pants pockets. I did. A surprising discovery. 

There was a small white pill in one of the pockets. I examined it carefully. I was unable to identify the pill as its markings were worn off.  As a healthcare worker, I suspected it was a narcotic, most likely a pain killer.     

I discarded the pill immediately, and closed my wandering mind to reflect about people’s essence.  Their spirit, their soul.  

I concluded that whether I was right or wrong in my visualizations about the clothing donors, I had no doubt that we are leaving a print --visible or not-- in everything and everybody around us, or part of us. 

Our essence.  

Nonetheless, may we ask ourselves:  what kind of essence or spirit are we projecting today, or leaving behind for another to find? 


Kathleen said...

Ah yes ... I know that "leaving" stuff well; and I pray it's of the sweetest scents.

I couldn't help but think of the following scripture as I read through your post: "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life." 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

I love the depths of your thoughts; themselves a projection of what is stored in your heart.


Cindy said...

This was a very welcome thought-provoking post. I also am a people watcher and try to see past the first impression to what may really be going on.

Thank you for visiting my blog so I could find yours. I look forward to reading more.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Doris -

Interesting observations. This exercise would be a great way for writers to flesh out their characters.

I'm here via a chain of bloggers: Diane Estrella started this madness with a challenge to visit six bloggers. From her Follower list, I visited Lynda Schab. Then, I found Lynn Squire. And now you. :)

I hope you'll visit Diane and say, "thanks." You're also welcome to check out my blog, "Christian Writer/Reader Connection."

Susan :)

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I have a friend who is an inveterate people-watcher. She used to stand on our third-floor enclosed balcony in Jordan and watch them for hours. I am too much of an extravert for that. When I cannot figure out the kinds of questions you posed, e.g., why the young person was in a wheelchair, I tend to go up and ask. Can't seem to help myself. People, surprisingly, don't seem to mind. In a world where there is one-degree of connectedness (at least, for me, I have found that 6 degrees is 6 times as far as in actuality matters are), I have always been able to find a common thread in my experience. If someone is in a wheelchair, to return to that example, well, so is my daughter -- and there are lots of things we can share. I have met many people who have become long-term friends in this way. Maybe one day I will lose this amount of brazenness and back off to just watching, but then there will be another problem: I do not have your great powers of observation (or those of my friend, the people-watcher).

I enjoyed the post.

Azure Accessories said...

What a thought provoking post...
There seems to be many people watchers in the world...I myself am one!!! It is a fascinating pass time...

Thank you for stopping by & following!

Teresa @ ♥ Too Many Heartbeats ♥ said...

Thanks for stopping by Doris! aI am not feeling very well right now but I am following you and I will definitely be back to read more later.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!


Teresa <><

♥ Too Many Heartbeats ♥

Java said...


Thanks for stopping by the Over 40 Bloggers Did you want to be added to the list? If so just add the Over 40 button to your sidebar and then let me know so I can add you to it!!

Thanks so much! I'm now following! Please follow me back if you haven't done so already!!

Have a great Sunday!

Shelly said...

What an interesting, thought provoking post...and thank you for sharing! I, too, find myself - at times - "people watching." I most often look at facial expressions, hand motions or actions, but will now certainly not neglect to notice the smaller details and try to conclude what they in themselves are saying about the person, and, perhaps, what my choices are saying about me :)

Jessica Nelson said...

What an intriguing post! And sad...I love people watching, but it can be horribly sad. Sometimes beautiful though.
I saw you in my followers list and wanted to pop by and say hi. :-)

Apron Senorita said...

Hi, I'm Yoli from Apron Senorita. It is so nice to meet you. I have been reading your postings and they are a good message to the heart. -- Yoli :)

Terri Tiffany said...

Like you, I love to sit and watch people, at airports, at parks, at malls. I wonder about them and what their lives are like.I did enjoy this post--as always!!

Natasha said...

That's almost spooky. I am a dedicated people watcher too, but had I got the vibes that you did from a pair of jeans, and found what I did in the pocket, I would havebeen seriously spooked out.
No wonder you can be a Social Worker - you are intrinsically brave.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Oh, that was so good. You think like a writer AND a social worker. You pick up on subtleties that reveal so much. This is useful in real life and in creative realistic characters. So glad I read your blog today.

PS: I put on a tight peach top this morning and thought it looked weird. Discarded it, and am wearing a brown, earthy shirt with sparkles. That's more ME.

Angela said...

I'm a 'watcher' also..but not as discreetly as you are,lol. It's ironic that I should read this post when a devotional today spoke the exact same thing."Lord, if I am known by what I do, may it be right and good"....What am I projecting today for others to see? What essence am I displaying? I do hope it is one of joy and peace.

Celestina Marie said...

Hi Doris,
Oh it is so nice to meet you and thank you for stopping by my studio and your kind words.
I have so enjoyed my visit here on your lovely blog. You are a very talented writer.

I too, am a people watcher. We learn so much about the actions of others, the words, clothing etc. However, when we get past the cover and see into the heart, that is when we truly comprehend. It's all a journey isn't it? We are in a spot watching, all as part of a plan. Yes, even that is planned.

Well, I am a happy follower now and look forward to seeing you again soon.

Have a wonderful evening and great weekend.
Blessings, Celestina Marie

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks so much for following my blog. I just assume that I'm the only one reading it because, let's face it, everybody and their cousing is writing a blog. Anyway, thanks! Karla

Linda said...

Hi Doris,
Great post and I enjoyed reading your thoughts.
I am a people watcher too and you can indeed learn so much about a person.
Hope you are having a good weekend.

Ann Best said...

Doris, thanks for commenting on my two-dog pizza day post. I can understand your reticence with dogs. I still feel it a bit, even as I try to interact with my children's pets!

I hope you're having a good month. It's very hot here, and humid, and the summer is not even half over!!

Nicole Murray said...

I read this post and it sounded so much like my own musings on people watching/disecting, second hand cloths, my past career in Mental Health and mutual feelings about that 'thing' we leave behind on our belongings, homes, places and other people.

I always went with that 'vibe' when meeting people or seeing long term clients or walk into places. You just knew something was off or changed or trustworthy by that feeling. It's nice to meet someone with similar instincts and thought on this subject. And lovely insightful writing too.

Odd Side Note: Antique stores and old sites. I feel like I've walked into buzzing history book. Old stuff just feels interesting. New stuff feels a bit vacant.

I know, sounds flaky but...

Nicole Murray said...

BTW, I have a thank you over on my blog for you.

Bica said...

This post reminds me so much of my thought process. I'm so happy I discovered your blog.