“The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye, the story of love is hello and goodbye…until we meet again” ~ Jimi Hendrix
Natural Born Talker
As a natural born talker, hello is a word that comes easily to me and I’ve seldom regretted extending a smile and a greeting to a person in line at the grocery store, at a restaurant (if they’re sitting next to me), at volunteer picnics, you name it if it’s a setting with people I’m likely to engage with at least one person.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve moved so many times in my life, and as the new kid on the block the only way I could make friends during whatever short time a particular relocation lasted, was to make the first step. It could also just be that it’s part of my DNA and personality make up.
The simple word hello has led to having friends throughout the world and a way to learn about people, their experiences and in some cases their culture and ethnic origin. It’s also led to opportunities to experience people and places I never thought I would.
It’s also my belief that one never knows the impact, positive or negative, we might have on a person in even the briefest of encounters.
airplanes and talking with strangers don’t mix…
Believe it or not, (most people who know me don’t believe it), but I don’t usually make it a habit to strike up conversations with people when I’m traveling. Recently there have been a few exceptions including a long conversation with a 16-year-old young man who was clearly on the first flight of his life and was terrified to fly. During the course of the flight, I learned much about what it’s been like for young people that have had to attend school remotely during the height of COVID.
Most recently, on a flight from Nashville to Chicago, I sat between a grandmother and granddaughter returning to the city from a funeral. The seating arrangement was a bit squishy, but it was a short flight, and we all dozed in comfortable silence.
Toward the end of the flight, the granddaughter and I struck up a conversation – it’s hard to say what prompted it, but it was so interesting. She’s a psychology major working toward a degree to be a therapist in her community. She very poignantly described the shame and reluctance of black people in her neighborhood to seek therapy.
I had never thought about it, but once she told me about how many young men and women suffer from PTSD because they’d witnessed the violent deaths of friends and family members, I was a little embarrassed to have never considered that.
As we were descending into Midway airport her grandmother woke up. I turned to her and said, “You have a beautiful granddaughter with a heart of gold.”
She at me with her eyes, because of course we were wearing masks, and replied, “She is and I’m very proud of her.”
I returned the smile and replied, you have a lot to be proud of, not that you need me to tell you that,”
“That’s very true, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it from other people as well.”
It was a very sweet exchange.
Then while waiting for the luggage, I sat next to a man who was reading a book entitled, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone.” We had a rather brief but deep conversation about the book and how if we all come together to end racism for all people of different ethnic origins and experiences the world will become a better place for all.
It’s been added to my reading list.
Last, but not least, my Uber driver is from Nigeria, a lovely, lovely man with a very gentle spirit.
For whatever reason, I chose to tell him about the conversation I had in the baggage claim area and he took it from there. His stories about growing up in Nigeria were captivating.
In particular, the way he described Christians and Muslims lived side by side and with the exception of radical outliers in both religions lived in harmony and even chose to celebrate each other’s sacred holidays.
I told him about ‘my kids’ in Syracuse and our ‘mini UN art parties in my driveway. He lit up from within, and he already has a light that shines within him.
By the time I got to the office and then the hotel, I was talked out and kept to myself, but I was awfully glad for the insights and conversations.
As one of my good friends would say, you never know what will happen when you take the time to say hello, often-times it’s brilliant.