After several hours of walking, visiting shops admiring artifacts and antique Chinese collectables, and eating at a self-service Chinese Restaurant, I sat on a street metal and wood bench on the side walk in front of a big antique decor shop to rest.
Across from me was another bench, that had a sculpture of a little girl with two plaits reading a book and gently stroking her pet dog sitting besides her. I watched her and tried to understand the message behind the sculpture - a little girl reading a book; if one does deep contemplation - a lot of meaning to the sculpture and lessons expressed through that art work.
Across from me on the corner next to a light pole, a Chinese man had created a small private space for himself. He had a chair, and some of his personal belongings: a few bags, some boxes and had placed a tin box on the side walk in front of him.
He was playing his Chinese Violin - enchanting Chinese tunes, I sat listening, completely absorbed in his music. Was transported to China, thinking of the Hollywood film The Last Emperor and its beautiful haunting theme music. I lost track of time. Recovered from my trance like state of mind, remembering that I had to meet family to return home. Got up and left a dollar in the tin box that lay in front of the musician, he gave a thank you nod, while continuing playing - this was his respectable way of begging.
During my travels, have found street musicians in every country and every city, but this one was special
On return from my visit to China Town, while walking on Grant Road, stopped at the traffic light.
Three young well dressed, well groomed Caucasian men in their twenties stood there, one holding four long stemmed yellow daffodil fresh blooms - off season, as daffodil had not begun blooming in the gardens yet. They had purchased them from the Florist shop that receive their supplies from Green Houses - so they had purchased them and not plucked them from the Daffodil Fields!
One came up to me and offered one long stemmed yellow daffodil, without speaking.
Weary of unfamiliar people, especially men, and cautious as I am, especially on the streets of big cities, I declined, saying thank you.
He shrugged his shoulders and began walking ahead of me towards Union Square, accompanied by his two companions.
I saw them stop next to an elegantly dressed, beautiful young Chinese woman who was busy on her iPhone. They said something, and gave her one long stemmed yellow daffodil.
I stopped and asked the lady, "Excuse me, can I ask a question".
"Yes," she said.
"Why did the three men give the daffodil to you?"
"I don't know, maybe just to be nice", she said.
So in the U.S., educated elegant young men hand out daffodils to ladies of all ethnic groups and ages - just to be nice!!
I did not buy that!
I asked different people the same question.
One opinion was : "They will trick you and ask for money." But these three men did not ask for anything.
Another: it was probably an assigned research study for them - given by a university, or from their work place, studying behavior and reactions of people on the street. How do people react to the act of strangers giving them a long stemmed daffodil?
Regretted not accepting the long stemmed Daffodil, and conversing with the three young daffodils distributors on SFO Streets. Well!
Walked on to Union Square and sat on a low cement wall to rest and kill time -even though was rushed to join my companion who was still shopping. I began people watching, my favorite pastime. People walked by me, all colors, all ages, all nationalities, speaking different languages. Since it was a beautiful sunny day with mild temperature, most wore light clothing.
Across from me sat a lady on a wheeled walking chair, dressed in comfortable, warm red clothes, with matching red shoes, and a warm woolen cap. She was already there before I came to sit on the bench. From across her, I sat watching her, and she watched me as well as all the passersby as we both sat along the main pedestrian pathway in the Union Square.
She held a long stemmed yellow daffodil in her hand. She had accepted the daffodil from the three young men distributing daffodils on the streets of San Francisco, that I had declined!
No one spoke to her except the Daffodil givers, who very politely handed the flower and walked away. I sat across from her for a long time but did not speak to her - which I regretted. I would have gotten a treasure trove of information, both historical, cultural and social from her.
This was her outing for the day; she was a handsome looking woman, full of grace and superbly groomed, seemed Chinese from her looks, was very fair skinned. After half hour, she stood up, folded the seat of the walker, and pushed her walker and walked away- maybe heading home to a place in the China Town.
The Lady in Red was out for her outing - to get the sun, fresh air and be with humanity, see people, maybe talk to someone and share life experiences, sharing what is her life, what did she do, who was she - if I had interacted with her, would have learnt all that.
This reminds me of the recent CNN discussion on the Pierce Morgan Show, where he spoke of Oprah Winfrey about her new campaign:
"JUST SAY HELLO" to any one and every one- to begin a conversation and make them feel wanted.
Oprah says people in the USA are very lonely. According to her, a woman told her she did not speak to any one for 2 weeks, and was very lonely!
Here are some comments from Americans who talked about their life and the loneliness they suffer:
"I am 65 and live in WV. I have been trying to tell my children for so long and they do not understand what it feels like to be lonely. I have been divorced for about 5 years now after having been married for almost 40 and this has been so hard, trying to learn to live alone. I was listening to Gayle talk about her weekend and not going out and no phone calls and I'm right there with her. My children do not come to visit, they do not call nor do they invite me to their homes. Loneliness is the major cause of my depression and anxiety. I take medication to keep these under control, but there is no medication for loneliness".
"Loneliness is very real. I am a 61-year old man. I was an educator and administrator for 33 years. I have been unemployed since 2011. I have Shelton most days in my apartment. Without the TV and computer, I would have had minimal contact with the outside world. I contemplated suicide several times. As a society, we have become so consumed with telephones, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. that we have forgotten the importance of real, face-to-face conversation. JUST SAY HELLO is commendable for bringing attention to an issue about which many people are unaware. I associated it with being a loser. I am glad to learn that although I am lonely, I am NOT alone regarding how.
I was very sad to hear these very real stories.
Lucky we are as a society- That rarely happens in my country. We have lots of people to talk to- family, friends, co-workers, helpers, neighbors, at market places - ours is a very social society, and we have very strong social and family ties, which is a great strength.
Sometimes the overly intrusive people do create problems - too many people interfere in our lives - but it is very healthy!
(February 20, 2017)
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