“I can live for two months on a good compliment”

that’s Mr Mark Twain.

I know I promised my next post to be about the fact that I’m moving up in my company (sort of), but there was something else I wanted to share instead.

Last week, as I was walking downtown to pick up an assortment of pastries (I know, my job is pretty incredible), I had a moment of epiphany of both the beauty and the ugliness of the human spirit. Quite a big order for such a beautiful Thursday. The sun was shining, air was cool, and I was eagerly looking forward to the white chocolate raspberry scone I knew awaited the end of my journey. I’m usually very withdrawn and reserved when walking downtown, especially before lunchtime, because so many older homeless men are wandering around and they like to say lewd things or ask me for money. A man who was not well dressed (or bathed) was walking the opposite direction as I approached my destination, and I could tell he was going to say something to me. As he passed me, I mentally braced myself, ready to defend myself in battle, so to speak. He simply said, “You’re really pretty, miss”, smiled, and kept walking.

And that was it. Nothing more, no hint of disrespect of lewdness. No beggaring of money or time, no interruption—neither of us broke step, really.

My reply already prepared, monotonously replied, “Thank you” (like a robot!) and walked on. Here’s where the duality comes in to play: as I walked away, I felt more wretched for my suspicious shut-down and more grateful for his ray of sunshine. I could not have looked inviting, wearing dark sunglasses but not a smile, and yet he felt compelled to share his appreciation for my beauty (I saw that as humbly as possible, dear reader) with no thought for repayment or personal gain. I immediately wished I had been more graceful—I felt like turning around and chasing him down to tell him a more sincere Thank You, but I was afraid that would have been taking a touch too far—perhaps inviting the attention I had avoided. The moment had passed.

I had been prepared for his encroachment into my “personal space”, had been ready to be offended at his audacity to speak to me—I had not been prepared for his kindness, his four little words smilingly spoken, sent out to do good, not harm. He offered verbal blooms with no ulterior motive—and it was incredibly moving. It made me realize how I expect ugliness out of man, not beauty. It surprised me, and then it was surprising that it was surprising (no, I am not trying to confuse you). I try very hard to see beauty where other refuse, to be a light and a song when no one else will sing, and so for me to assume it could not be found on the streets of Austin in the form of a baseball cap (and dire need of a shave) was uncharacteristic. At least, I hope it was. I hope that isn’t who I’ve become, embittered by all the junkies who follow me, stop me, or flirt with me. I suppose it’s harsh to call it “embitterment”—I am a young woman who cannot help but be cautious.

But I don’t really want to focus on that aspect of it. I don’t want to wonder at the ugliness of it, but rather, the beauty. Because his comment really did put a little spring in my step. I felt a little more beautiful, suddenly I knew I was having a good hair day. I carried that with me the whole day. I felt like being the gracious, beautiful princess to everyone I met. That little “miss” tagged on to his compliment really made it so nice for me—it wasn’t lewd, leering, or ogl-ish (why yes I DID just make up a word!).

Regardless of any thoughts in that man’s head that I would have been uncomfortable hearing, he chose to express one that had no strings or second guesses attached. I am choosing to see the absolute niceness of this gesture. That’s part of the enchantment of being a human, and being exactly right where I am.

I hope someone’s given you this gift before. I hope you can find a way to give it to someone else soon. Because maybe they’ll have a blog, and then you’ll be famous. Or RATHER, because maybe they need to hear it and believe in the beauty of mankind that day.

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