So much can happen at a freeway off-ramp. Even though it’s the least likely place you’d expect to find meaningful encounters.
The photo you see was taken at 3:40 ish this morning. I was at a sleep over (ha! You know what I’m talking about – women my age don’t really have ‘sleep overs’). I couldn’t sleep, for the life of me. Not wanting to deny others their sleep with my restlessness, I decided to go home.
If you don’t know, let me inform you, stoplights behave much differently at the wee hours of the morning. When I got to the off-ramp to my house, the red light was exceptionally long. Waiting for the light to turn green, I began to daydream. Only, it wasn’t quite day, and, you must be kidding me! now I’m going to finally fall asleep.
While in this lucid state, a multitude of off-ramp realities began to surround me. A gentleman appeared to my left, holding a cardboard sign, pleading for money or food. He was trying to make eye contact with me. He knows, once he’s got eye contact, the odds of receiving a handout goes up.
Then there’s the person sitting in the car to my right. Every time I feel compelled to look over at him, he evidently is compelled to look back over at me too.
Crossing in front of me, is a mother and stroller. She has two other little kids walking at her side. They walk briskly, because they have somewhere important to go.
Suddenly, I become acutely aware of the interior of my car, as being distinct, from the outside world. Does it occur to the outside world, that there’s a reality inside my car? Or, are they the stage, and I, merely the audience. To what extent are we really engaging?
It may seem like unnecessary, extracurricular thinking for a freeway off-ramp pit stop, however, these moments of pause, during our very busy lives, offer more space and meaning than we might normally notice.
Unsuspecting moments on off-ramps, and other unlikely places, hold the possibility to authentically engage with others, and our own self. It’s a moment when another human being, and his needs, can be witnessed. We stand to receive soul satisfaction too. At an off-ramp! How cool is that.
Perhaps, when you and the person in the car to your right make that awkward eye-contact, you can pause in that awkwardness and offer a smile. They might need that smile as much as the panhandler needs money.
And, there’s always the opportunity to come to the stop slowly, leaving the cross walk completely open and safe for the mother and her children to make their journey. And the one child who always manages to look at you, smile at him too.
All this at a freeway off-ramp! Did I mention that already.