Barbara: I had to wait for my daughter the other day because she had an interview in an out-of-the-way place and needed me to take her there and home afterward. Thing is, the interview might last anywhere from half an hour to a couple of hours (as luck would have it, it took two). Now I’ve been wading through an intensely difficult and distracting revision of a 300-page manuscript, so decided that I would ensconce myself in the nearby Starbucks and get some work done.
It was snowing out, just climbing up from a frigid -20, and I didn’t like the look of the cold, hard-backed chairs that I could have chosen. I wanted plush and cozy. Well, wasn’t there a nicely plush and cozy chair right next to an older gentleman––Stranger––who was enjoying his coffee and was deeply immersed in the local paper. I asked if he minded if I sat in the chair next to his; he said of course. I pulled out my computer, and off I went, plunging into the dark world that I had created and was now irrevocably changing.
Twenty minutes passed and then Stranger, apropos of nothing, very gently asked me what I was working on. Now, this happens to me a lot at Starbucks. Older gentlemen, friendly, curious, possibly retired men enjoy engaging the people around them, and a light-hearted question is often thrown my way. The ensuing conversation usually lasts just minutes and I’m always glad I’ve partaken. It’s the real-life version of blogging or Facebooking—getting to know a little about a fellow human being that you wouldn’t otherwise get to know. And older people who try to engage you are always ALWAYS fascinating. They have so many stories, such a wealth of experience, and––if they are compelled to talk to you––are probably pretty good raconteurs.
No different with Stranger––yet Stranger was utterly different. He was a retired sociology professor and, MAN, did we have a conversation. We spoke about everything from my work to his work to marriage to love to our tribal natures to world politics (which I know very little about, but with the incredible catch that he was an Israeli dedicated to sustaining the Jewish faith in modern times and I was of German descent who struggled with guilt issues).
Anyway, long story short: I met someone incredible in that Starbucks who I would never otherwise have met had I been closed off to human interaction. So this is one part shout-out to my new Friend (who has no idea I’m blogging here), one part encouragement to you to lend an ear to a wise person, and another part pat on my own back. You heard me: ON MY OWN BACK. I’m not ashamed to tell you––in fact I want to shout it to you––that, yes, he was a kind stranger, but so was I. And I feel immensely, incredibly lucky that because of an initial kindness, his by letting me sit next to him, mine by letting him interrupt my work, my world opened up plus one.
I just had to share that with you.
Deb: Barb, the kindness of strangers is one of the many things that can make my day. I can strike up a conversation with a can of soup and have been known to do so. I love love love chatting with people and having moments of connection. My Mom, Dad, and brother are all like this. It is the only way of being I have ever known and it is glorious and satisfying. We all have the uggers moments in our day where people behave badly, so it is gratifying and life-affirming when we interface with a lovely face.