If you know me, you know I like to talk, and if you know me really well you know it can sometimes be difficult to get a word in. My mom and dad had to keep a close eye on me when I was growing up. I’ve always talked to strangers. When I’d walk to my Grandparents house, they would say, “STRAIGHT THERE AND STRAIGHT BACK.” As I’ve gotten older, I jump in an uber and immediately strike up a conversation. I’m constantly chatting with people I meet during my daily routine. I’m active on social media, and networking with strangers is a large component of my job.
Over the past couple of months I have thought a lot about my interests as a child, and observed where its taken me. I’ve come to the realization that as much as I enjoy talking to strangers, I love to listen to them even more. In the past year I have picked up some of the most priceless advice from people I had never met, nor seen again. I’ve had some of my life’s most valuable conversations with complete strangers.
Last January, I was skipping class to get a manicure/pedicure. A woman walked into the salon and was seated beside me. She immediately said hello and complimented my nail colour. We started chatting and within the first minutes of conversation she had me smiling from ear to ear. This woman was giving me (a total stranger) an a to z detailed story about the lunch date she just had. Within five minutes, I felt like I had known her forever. Her name was Bonnie; she told me I could call her “ The Joyologist”. The enthusiasm in her voice just while making small talk made me want to know everything about her. Within 10 minutes I felt like I did. She shared a personal story with me.
One day Bonnie was injured at work. She lost her ability to walk. Her first surgery was not successful. She had meeting after meeting with different orthopedic surgeons. Just when she thought there was no light at the end of the tunnel, she was given the option for a trial surgery. She received a rare bone transplant. The odds were not in her favour, and it was likely that her body would reject it. After 30 months bedridden and another 8 months of water and physiotherapy, Bonnie walked again. Through all of that time she said she knew she was going to walk again, she just wasn’t sure of when. She told me that the odds were against her and the only reason she gained back her mobility was because she believed that she would. She did not long for her ability to walk, she visualized it every single day.
She talked to me about being grateful, and began counting her blessings out loud. She expressed gratitude for everything from the icy cold weather that started it all, to the organ donation that gave her her life back. She went on and on about the “Gift of Life”. Her positivity was shooting out of her like sunbeams. Within 25 minutes I knew so much about this woman. There was a brief silence, and she said “shouldn’t you be in school?”. I felt like she knew everything about me too. I can’t compare what I learned from her that day to what I would have learned in the lecture I was skipping. Her advice was priceless, and her strength was inspiring. The more we talked the more I couldn’t help but feel like we didn’t meet by accident.
“The Joyologist” was the first of many invaluable encounters I’ve had recently. It seems like everytime I meet someone new I leave with a completely revamped way of thinking.
In the beginning of August, my boyfriend and I were on our way home from dinner. We were having casual conversation with the uber driver when he began telling us about his passion for comedy. After small talk about stage performances and youtube videos, he explained that he was “ late to the game”. This man spent most of what he referred to as his “prime” years captivated by a drug addiction. He didn’t go into too much detail but I could hear it in his voice that it was a very dark time. He explained how it delayed him from chasing his dreams, but once he broke free it didn’t stop him. He went from one extreme to the other taking every single lesson that he could carry with him. He is now a motivational speaker. He is pursuing comedy on the side. He overcame his demons and finds his happiness in making other people happy.
These are just short stories that go to prove you can’t judge a book by its cover. Some of the best people I know have had some of the worst struggles. They are good people because they have taken adversity and learned from it. They are great people because they have taken what they learned, personally and shared it with others. I admire those who can take their mistakes and learn from them, but I applaud those who can take their mistakes and teach with them.
“Good judgment comes from experience which comes from bad judgment” – Will Rogers
A special woman once told me that life is a series of choices. We will be faced with good ones and we will be faced with bad ones.
“You will make the choice that you make at any given time. At the end of that choice you will again be given another choice good or bad. Each will have its own set of consequences. None of you will make good choices all the time but just remember that as with the branches of a tree stretching ever closer to heaven, even if you make a thousand bad choices at the end you will still be given the opportunity to make a good one.”
I don’t think we ever meet anyone by accident. If I’m being honest, I don’t think a lot of things here on earth happen by chance.
Talk to strangers; strike up a conversation while you wait in line. Ask your uber driver about their day. Smile at someone in the waiting room. If there are over 7 billion people here on earth, there are over 7 billion stories to be told. Think of all the experience to be shared, and all the lessons to be learned from other people.