Our lives intersect with hundreds of strangers every week. Sometimes we give a quick, uneasy smile, a quiet hello, a hasty nod, or merely glance away. But in these “chance” meetings, there is opportunity. To make connections, to speak a kind word, to show light, to listen to another human being’s story.
Today, I met a delightful 87-year-old woman, who was sitting alone at a local café in my town. I was armed with my laptop and a head full of writing and planning ideas, ready to make the most of a few stolen hours by myself.
But God had other plans.
I sat quietly for a while, gearing up for my big writing extravaganza by first opening some e-mails and browsing the web. But when I started to get up to refill my drink, she made eye contact.
“Are you in college?” she asked, noticing my laptop.
Resisting the urge to hug her (since college days are just a very dim memory for me), I explained that I’m a writer and come to the café for a little writing time every so often.
That exchange turned into an hour and a half long conversation with Betty, an interesting elderly widow with twinkling blue eyes and a lively personality. And plenty of stories.
We talked about her memories as a young girl in our town, roller skating with her friends to the State Theatre. They would smear candy on the corners of their mouths and skip up to the ticket counter acting like 12 year olds, so they could get in for 10 cents instead of 25. As a young married woman, she saw her husband off to Japan for his post-World War II duties. She showed me pictures of her great-grandchildren. Reminisced about her late husband of 60 years. And we discovered that we have several mutual friends.
She kept apologizing for keeping me from my work. I kept assuring her that I enjoyed listening to her stories.
With a look of pain in her eyes, she confessed that her daughter doesn’t like to listen to her memories.
“If I didn’t have my memories, I would jump off a bridge. But I don’t like the water,” she said with a chuckle.
A “chance” meeting with a complete stranger ended up enriching my day. And pricking my conscience for almost passing up the opportunity.
Today I was reminded that people are more important than computers. Personal connections far outweigh internet connections. Real face-to-face contact is more valuable than Facebook.
Everyone has a story. If only someone will listen…