“ All flourishing is mutual ” (Robin Wall-Kimmerer)
Although Raymond normally looked forward to the upcoming Winter holidays, he seemed bothered about his recent decision to instead pursue a three month road trip vacation along the eastern banks of the Mississippi River region. For such a bold decision to journey elsewhere meant that this retired widower, who once prided himself on being a strong “family man”, would miss out on the joyous spirit of giving and receiving gifts and other holiday rituals at this festive time of year.
But frankly speaking, Raymond now tired of being “caught up” in the rut of such burdensome tasks as writing “Happy Holidays” cards and completing his long list of shopping and social obligations. So while this trip would be an honest test of his will to act as a more independent minded person, he’d also harbored doubts that such self – sufficiency could sustain itself over time. For there were some ” bottom line” indicators that Raymond ominously considered about this life change juncture such as how could he stretch the limits of his monthly budget plan to complete such a longer vacation and to what extent would he feel loneliness and social rejection upon neglecting his holiday commitments to others as normally expected. So with November approaching, Raymond’s introspective brooding intensified.
Fortunately Raymond found some insight about how he could best resolve his current travel crisis in reflecting why he performed a kindness ritual of hand feeding whole peanuts to friendly squirrels perched along his front condo guardrail each day. For as he found success in gaining the trust of these small critters every morning by way of these warm- hearted feeding gestures, he similarly reasoned that by giving more kindness to himself under his present circumstances, he’d be more confident to proceed with what he soon planned to do.
Know then that in the ensuing days, Raymond booked a comfortable Air B&B apartment near Vicksburg, Mississippi, adjacent to the slow moving shores of America’s largest river. In choosing to stay more positive about himself away from home, each day he might be satisfied to just sit down for a spell, enjoy a little music, savor the past, meditate some, or take a leisurely walk in this swampy wilderness to pass his time. But given his recurrent fears of being alone, now and then Raymond’s memories would revert back to those squirrel feeding times to suggest that he desperately needed to “reach out” in kindness to others as well beyond his own intensely private cocoon. He would thus begin an inquiry about places in town where he could meet and greet those in the local community and perhaps lend a hand to others as an eco- enthused volunteer. Who knows! The thought even crossed his mind then that he might find a fresh female companion to share new memories with him here.
Thus it came to be that during a chance meeting one day in mid November at a gas station, he encountered “Old Man Ernie” a longtime local resident. Good fortune struck then when he obtained some tips from this stranger to check out an old fashioned, convenience store along Route 61 called “The Tomato Place.” So upon taking a first impression of the market’s nature shrouded entrance and adjoining botanical garden, Raymond curiously desired to take longer look inside the building. There he observed a unique combination of pleasing smells and sights of fresh produce and plant life taken from the surrounding land as well as took in an informal town gathering place filled with spirited holiday time conversation.
Unsurprisingly a few days later, Raymond took the initiative to volunteer his services to the “Tomato Place” manager, who agreed that he could be helpful to his business through the remaining weeks of his vacation. So on most afternoons, Raymond found work as a friendly greeter for any customers browsing around the storage racks filled with fresh holiday fruits, vegetable goodies and other homemade products stocked in the store. When not busy with this task, one might have caught him instead showing off a creative shrub or flower set in the garden or perhaps doing some pet sitting at times for new neighbors and friends. Seeing no reason to look back at his past life, Raymond would now be determined to make this friendly place in Mississippi his second home for years to come.
It’s clear to me then that Raymond’s sudden change of life status suggests a reconsideration of how we might best engage in those simple acts of kindness toward ourselves and other beings as we approach 2022’s holiday period. Enjoy the photos of “Tomato Place in Vicksburg, Mississippi.”