Sometimes it is good to slow down.

Sometimes it is important to focus on the "now".

Sometimes it is beneficial to look around and learn.

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to do all these things.

You have to slow down to do the Farmer's Market on the square in Madison, Wisconsin.  One of the nation's biggest farmer's market happens spring through fall.  Dozens of hard working people taking pride in their harvest by displaying it so beautifully.  Hundreds of men and women shopping for fresh veggies, flowers and (especially because it is Wisconsin) cheese bread and curds.  Children running and rolling on the state capitol's lawn.  It is like a scene from a great movie...

To truly enjoy the market you have to focus on the "now".  It would be easy to be just another shopper, going with the traffic flow around the square, buying a box of tomatoes or a jar of honey and miss the true simple beauty of the market.  It would be easy to be thinking of the laundry back at home, the long "to do" list waiting on the kitchen island, worrying about something that happened the day before or planning the next day's events.  It would be easy to put your head down, get to the booths on your shopping list, pay the farmer and move along.  But to do those things would be tragic.  When I have gone through the market this way I miss the good stuff....the real stuff...the life stuff.

Luckily last Saturday I was not alone.

My husband's two aunts from Iowa were visiting Madison.  Aunt Mary and Aunt Thieleane have wanted to come to the market for many years and I was so happy when they wrote that they had plans to come!  When we met downtown their excitement was big and palpable.  The very first booth brought "ooooohs!" and "aaaahhs!".

I knew then that it was going to be a special morning....for them..........and me.

Aunt Thieleane & Aunt Mary


Let me back up a bit.  I want to introduce you to 2 people who I loved very much.

 Grandma Evadeane and Grandpa "Steve"

They were my grandparents-by-marriage...but that didn't change how special they were to me. Thielen and Evadeane Stevens were two loving parents who taught their 3 children many things.

I admire all the lessons taught, but the one that always stands out is this:

Their children care about people.  All people.

They look people in the eye, ask questions, listen and learn each person's story.  My father-in-law and his sisters, the 2 aunts from Iowa, are so good at this.

They are a rare I am glad to follow behind and hope that some rubs off on me.


So.... back to the market.




I enjoyed walking the square with them.  It took us about 2 hours to get around the whole thing.  Most people do it in much faster amount of time.  But those are people who are keeping their heads down, picking their bunch of radishes, handing over the cash and heading to the next booth.  Not Mary and Thieleane.

Heads were up.

Eye contact was made with the farmers.

Asking questions.

Showing interest.

Listening to answers.

Thanking the farmers.

Leaving with a smile.

Every time.


Grandpa and Grandma Stevens taught them this.

They know that each person has a story.

They care about that story.

Before they started a conversation a vendor would be hard at work, concentrating and serious.



After, when leaving, the vendor was smiling, engaged and...I think....feeling honored.


Let's be clear.  These 2 women have LOTS on their plates.  They could have been walking the square thinking of the challenges they are both facing, the lists of things to do, the friends and family who have health issues and more.  But, even with all this in their lives they wanted to engage in conversation and show their respect and gratitude for the hard work of these farmers.  They treated each person with dignity and great interest.

This is a bit of a lost art everyone.

We are all way too busy and in a hurry to stop, look the waitress...the grocery store clerk...the school's office admin...the bank teller...the child in the eye, ask them a question and listen to the answer with interest.


So, what did I learn that Saturday?

I learned that maybe if I just slowed down, focused on the "now, and looked people in the eye and listened to their stories that I......we.... might just start a kindness comeback!

A graciousness revolution.

That would be the best market lesson ever.

May you keep your head up as you walk the "markets" of your daily lives.

May you focus on the "now" instead of the yesterdays, tomorrows and next weeks.

May you look others in the eye.

May you want to learn someone's story.

May you show them you care about that story.



Thank you Aunt Mary and Aunt Thieleane....

for the flowers, the fun morning, the car ride home.... and the life lesson.

Love you both!


August 31, 2012 — Sarah Stevens

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