« NOLA! | Main | Sickee »

ConverStationsFebruary 6, 2013

I found myself very inspired and moved by this short TED talk by Karen Walrond on seeing the beauty and finding connection in other people. (I totally have a crush on her now. She's crush-worthy.) 

Her 1000 Faces project, showing the uncommon beauty of regular people, is worth some time, too.

I was on BART the other day, coming back from San Francisco at 6pm, right at rush hour. I followed a woman onto the packed train, and a flower dropped from her hair. I picked it up and gave it back to her, and we had that moment. You know that one? Where you talk to someone, just for a few minutes, and you get them, and they get you too. I'm pretty convinced we could all find more of these, if we looked. In the fifteen minutes we spent speeding under the bay, we talked gardening and shoes. We compared her kids to my cats (her kids buy her more birthday presents than Digit buys me, I tell you what). We bonded over tuberoses and gardenias, burying our noses in the flowers she was carrying. She gave me a sprig of jasmine from her hair and wished that her plant was in bloom already, as ours is. She touched me on the arm at least five times, that You know? Right? touch, and it was so lovely, as she was. 

Of course, people on the train (the ones not wearing earbuds) stared. We were obviously strangers, but we were laughing out loud at each other's jokes, grinning at each other in delight. Those who weren't staring at us kept their eyes on the devices they were holding. 

I'm usually a device-holder, too. I hate being that guy, but I like to read a book on my phone on the train. I like to check Twitter. I like to send texts. I really like to not have to eavesdrop on annoying half-conversations people have on their phones (I'd rather eavesdrop on both sides if possible). But how many flower ladies do I not chat up? How much light am I not seeing? How many conversations between stations (converstations?) am I missing? 

Food for thought. Tell me your most recent nice random encounter? 

[Book recommendation: I'm reading Jerusalem Gap, and the voice is amazing. I can't stand for it to end, and I'm only half-way through. Dog lovers, this one's for you.]


I was in the grocery store and met a young dad shopping for fresh ingredients to make dinner for his family. We started talking about how to chose juicy apples (pick the heavy ones)and how to cook veggies for kids. We started swapping recipes. Ended up teaching him some new to him cooking techniques. I'll probably never see him again, but he was so excited to try the things I told him about. I was inspired by his determination to cook every meal for his kids. It made my day!

Not a random encounter, but an article you may enjoy on love: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/01/28/love-2-0-barbara-fredrickson/ Your blogpost reminded me of it!

You don't have to talk for random encounters of course. The smile I shared with the cute bus driver as I got off the bus the other night brightened up my trip home considerably, and all I said was "cheers"! Making eye contact and smiling is not a very 'city' thing to do, but it makes a world of difference.

I was sitting in front of the wood stove at my local bottle shop/pizza place a week or so ago writing in my journal. A young man sitting nearby asked me what I was writing about and it lead to a conversation about journal-keeping, poetry, writing in public, beer, and a few other things. I may or may not run into him again (this town can feel, by turns, either smaller or larger than it really is), but I am very pleased to have had the conversation.

A moment in time to cherish. Thanks for sharing your experience. Seems like they are few and far between, and you can never look for them--they just happen--kind of like when I saw you walking down the path at the Dixon fiber festival a couple years ago and we hugged and you signed my book. Spontaneous pleasure!

This is not my most recent encounter, but recent-ish, and very memorable. I wear my son on my back often. In a baby carrier or woven wrap. Going through B&N during the holiday rush and African lady stopped me to chat about me wearing my son on my back. She has been out of Africa for 30 years and had not seen anyone do that since she left Africa. We had a great chat about how she lived in Englad for 10 years and a few thinhs babywearing. When I tore myself away, it felt like we could have chatted for hours, my fiancee' said can you just make random friends everywhere.

A woman in B&N complimented me on my coat, asked where I had gotten it. We ended up talking for an hour, later going out to lunch and then she took me to the office of a CEO on whose company board she sits. That CEO took the proceeds from the settlement from the death of her young husband in a plane crash and started a helicopter school/helicopter engine servicing company. She was having trouble with her bank. I researched it and gave her a page full of ideas that helped her successfully finance her business expansion. And both of these women are just an ongoing delight to know. All from a bookstore, a coat, and a conversation! Thanks for your story, Rachael! I can always use a reminder to be open to serendipity.

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful video and link to her photo project. The older I get, the more I try to see past people's outward appearances and accept them as they are. I also love to surprise people by complimenting them on their clothing, accessories, actions, etc. It always amazes me to see their surprised reactions to kind words... I love the random moments with strangers...you just never know who you will meet.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. It makes me realize just how disconnected I am at times from the people around me (earbud wearing, device holder, that's me). Makes me realize I need to keep my eyes and ears open!

I talk to strangers all the time, especially when I'm stuck in lines. It's part of my ongoing effort to banish my tendency towards shyness. I've met some really interesting people this way. And I try to smile at strangers as often as possible, cuz that never hurts anyone.

I used to be a very frequent customer at my pharmacy, and luckily I am not so much now. The guy who used to work there would roll his eyes and sigh when he saw me, but I think he got fired a few months ago. Now there is a lovely young lady, who apologized tonight when she had to ask me for my first name because she knew my face. I told her it really wasn't a problem since I come in only once a month! Such a simple thing, picking up a prescription, but I've been leaving with a big smile on my face.

Yesterday at the hand specialist, the woman in front of me had what I thought was a new kindle. I asked her about it and she just about bounced up and down showing me her Ipad mini. We had a discussion about portability and what kind of cases were the best (she had broke her ipod and her children had replaced it with this new gift). That rolled into apps for grandchildren (which I know a little bit about with my profession) and went into new books. She had some recommendations for books NOT to get. It would have lasted longer but they called her back into the office and she looked back over her shoulder with longing to talk longer. Me too, dear, me too.

No recent encounters but my book pick of the week was 'I Could Pee On That' written by a poetry writing cat, found it in my vets waiting room. I eagerly await my own copy, hysterical and spot on.

I was standing in check out behind a young woman at the market. Her toddler was in full meltdown, and although she was remaining clam and standing her ground with him, she was clearly struggling. At some point I simply said, "Parenting is really hard and you're doing a really great job". She turned and looked at me and said "Oh my God, today has been just so hard with him, I so needed to hear that". We didnt talk again, but when she passed me in the parking lot she waived, and touched her heart. It was very sweet.

I think that I use my electronics as a back up form of entertainment for those life moments when those real moments don't arise.

I grabbed a seat on Muni today -- and happened to sit next to a woman knitting a sock. I pulled out my own sock knitting. She looked at the sock, looked at me, we looked at each other, and laughed. Nothing special -- but nothing more wasneeded.

In the mall over the weekend. A very well-dressed fella was walking by, and when he took his hand out of his overcoat, his black knit cap fell on the floor. I managed to catch his attention and he ran back to grab it. We only said a few words and nothing meaningful, but the smile we gave each other was real. We both laughed because we could both feel how real our smiles were. It was pretty awesome, and really impossible to put into words.

I call this type of encounter a Love-and-Run. Serendipity? Divine encounter? A love connection nonetheless.

Shortly after completing chemotherapy, I was in a restaurant wearing my "Cancer Is Not For Sissies" t-shirt. A young man at the table next to mine said he liked my shirt, and we spoke for a minute as he was getting ready to leave. He told me he had terminal cancer. It's hard to put into words the moment our eyes locked - fleeting, but deeply powerful. This happened several years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Love, love, love this! Thanks for sharing :-)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


Subscribe to Rachael's mailing list

knitting projects

DSCN13632.jpg Email me