When my husband and I lived in New Providence, the capital island of the Bahamas, we rented a charming wooden cottage with a sweeping vista of the ocean from a sweet, elderly man who was 88 years old.
Our landlord Leslie lived alone in an elegant house next door to our cottage and I made it a habit to visit him each day, after arriving home from teaching at a local high school.
Leslie was lonely and my heart would ache for him. Having lost his wife a few years earlier, he was a sad, wistful figure, who would spend the day sitting with the front door open, gazing out at traffic and wondering where all his friends had gone.
While I felt sorry for his situation, I was acutely aware of why people had stopped coming by. Leslie could barely hear a word anyone said and, as a consequence, my visits would consist of raising my voice to the highest level possible, which would leave me hoarse and physically drained.
One afternoon after making tea and settling down to attempt to communicate, Leslie started by labeling himself “a silly old fool” and then related an incident I will never forget.
Over the years I have recalled it many times as a way of highlighting the importance of being attentive and present.