The Child and the Handshake

The smallest gestures can have the largest impacts.  These gestures always take me by surprise but I’m left humbled and changed by them.

Today we went for our monthly shopping to Big Bazaar which is the Indian equivalent of Walmart.  Our nearest store is located in Delhi at a large shopping mall so going shopping is an outing for us and something we love doing together.  It always proves to be an adventure.

After we were finished, my husband called the driver to bring the car and we strolled outside to wait.  An afternoon rain shower was just ending and the air was stifling.  I waited with our cart while he ran across the street to get us a bottle of water.  Standing in public is still uncomfortable for me.  People gawk.  I’m a real oddity here; pretty much the only white skinned person to be seen.  I normally handle this by trying to be invisible.

As I was making the attempt, I noticed a young mother walking by carrying a baby with a little girl in tow.  She and the little girl, who was probably around 4 years old, both stared but I smiled and they continued on by.  I went back to waiting for my husband and perfecting my invisibility.  I was suddenly startled by the feeling of little fingers prying my hand from the handle of the shopping cart.

I looked down and there stood the little girl smiling up at me.  She carefully took my hand and gave it a shake.  I shook it back, said “hello” and we both grinned at each other.  That was the extent of the encounter.  She ran back to her momma and we too shared a big smile.  I said “thank you” but I doubt she understood.  Language is a barrier I haven’t managed to haul my clumsy frame over yet.  I really struggle with Hindi so it was all I could offer.

More correctly, spoken language is a barrier.  Body language, and the language of touch is not.  I was so moved, so touched by the innocence and bravery of that small child.  She wasn’t worried about what color I was, what religion I may be, and that I was different in almost every way possible.  She simply wanted to say “hello, I’m curious to meet you.”  I mentally kicked myself several times after we parted.  I mean, here I am the one always preaching that we need honor the uniqueness of the individual without focusing on difference and I was completely busted.  I was the one obsessing over differences.  Ridiculously so.  Facing my own hypocrisy was humbling to say the least.

I feel blessed by that little encounter.  It gave me a good dose of reality.  It was a real wake-up for me.  It’s always the simple things, the little things that leave such an impact on my heart.  I don’t know if that little girl will remember me, but I know I’ll never forget her and the lesson she brought me.


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