“I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don't exactly want to make people KNOW more... though I know that IS the noblest ambition... but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born.”
I didn't read the Anne of Green Gables series until I was an adult and pregnant with my second child. I loved those books, and as soon as I met Anne I recognized a kindred spirit.
And when I read the above words, I had that feeling you get when you wish you would have said it first.
Travelling by bike offers opportunities to stop along the way and add some joy and happiness to people's lives. Of course, this is not one-sided -- those people usually do exactly the same for me.
Because I commute to work, I cover approximately the same route at approximately the same time every day. As a result, I see some people quite regularly, walking, riding a bike, or waiting for a bus. Sometimes these people fail to appear and I experience a fleeting curiosity about what happened -- did they change jobs, move away from the area, start driving to work, take a holiday? The curiosity comes and goes and I quickly forget about them.
One person, however, stands out as a little different. This is an older lady whom I think of as Princess Grace. She reminds me of Grace Kelly. Her hair is in that classic, impeccable 1950s bob; she carries herself regally, and she wears the most beautiful scarves.
A few years ago I would see her every day after work as she ventured out of her care home (I could see her call button around her neck) for a slow, painstakingly careful stroll to the end of the block and back. We always exchanged smiles and greetings.
One day when I arrived at my parking spot and began unpacking my bike, she didn't appear. I dawdled a little, but in the end I had to load the bike into the back of the van and drive away. This time I experienced more than fleeting curiosity; I was slightly worried. Where was she? Was she sick? In the hospital? Perhaps even...
I told myself that this was ridiculous. First of all, I didn't even know her, not really. Secondly, she was probably just fine. I would probably see her the next day -- maybe she just took her walk later than usual this one time.
But, no, I didn't see her the next day. In fact, I didn't see her again for months, perhaps even a year. I thought of her from time to time. I even told my ESL class about her when we were studying modals of possibility (might, could, may.) The students, practicing these verbs, offered many possible explanations for her sudden disappearance. None was completely satisfactory.
I didn't forget her. I didn't think about her every day, but occasionally when I arrived at my parking spot, I would wonder...
And then one day, I took a slightly different route back to the van. Instead of riding on the main street, I took a side street, and there she was, wearing a lovely scarf (Hermes?) and walking as elegantly as ever. In astonishment, I stopped my bike and said hello. Her face lit up and she explained that she was taking longer walks now and she started a little earlier, so that by the time I arrived at my parking spot, she had already passed. We had a nice little chat and I rode to my van with a cheerful heart.
That was about two years ago. Since then, I haven't seen her very often, but just this week I met up with her again. I stopped to say hello and she immediately smiled and said, "It's so nice to see you again." Of course, the feeling was mutual and I told her so. And I thought of Anne and her desire to add some beauty to the lives of others.
As we ride our bikes, taking life at a slower pace than so many people around us, we have the chance to do just that.
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