I genuinely enjoy connecting with others. I love having random conversations and learning life stories. I like to listen. And I, like most people, have been lucky enough to make unique and wonderful friendships throughout the 23 years, 7 months, and 30 days of my life (but who’s counting?).
And then, there is that other type of relationship: a connection we’ll have with a stranger or an acquaintance that’s short-lived. The random conversation you have with someone on a crowded bus, or on a line to buy movie tickets. The guy you buy coffee from every morning, or the old woman who lives upstairs. I find these connections just as beautiful and important as any family member or friend.
I talked about this with my friend Davey (heeey Davey!) over Ethiopian food last week. He told me about a hike he went on out West—he met up with some other backpackers and they spent the whole day traversing the red rocks. They got along excellently and could easily have turned into long-time pals. Yet when it was time to part ways…they did.
This story reminded me of a bus ride from D.C. to New York. I sat at a table with a father and his two grown children and the four of us spent the whooole northern journey playing gin-rummy and eating carrot cake cookies (i KNOW). I learned all about this quirky trio, and before we knew it, we were pulling over in midtown and set to go our separate ways. Part of me didn’t want to walk away—we just spent five hours together laughing and learning, and I knew I’d never see them again. Still, I simply remarked how great it was to meet them, and left.
I still think about this family and am reminded about how great that bus ride was. And Davey will remember that hike and those fellow backpackers. And you know what? That’s more than enough. I’ll continue to tell the bodega owner down the street “have a great day” when I purchase my coffee, and I’ll never forget to thank the woman who hands me a towel after I workout at the gym. The African laundry lady will always tell me a story when I pick up my clean clothes, and the guy who chops my salad will never stop asking what dressing I want (balsamic every time).
I’ll never spend Christmas with these people, and I may never even learn their names. Yet if I couldn’t have random conversations and quick connections with strangers, I would feel devoid of something. And…and…I wonder what would happen if everyone valued and respected strangers as much as they did family and friends. At the very least, we’d all be a little happier, don’t you think?