My dad taught me, perhaps accidentally and almost entirely by example, that I can find a connection to anyone if I’m bold enough to strike up a conversation.
We used to laugh about how he could know a cashier’s name, age and where he grew up before he finished ringing him up in the express lane.
Russ laughs at me for the same thing now. Part of it is a natural curiosity that I’ve always had. I love to know someone’s story. Part of it is an aversion to awkward silence. Most of it is a need to find the common humanity in the people who share my space.
When we travel anywhere I look for connections – to my home, hobbies, anything.
On our honeymoon we talked for half an hour to a family from Hendersonville, just 45 minutes up the road from where we live in Greenville. I believe in that particular instance, I noticed a Clemson hat and had to comment.
Last year while hiking a trail we’d never seen we ran into a friend of a friend I remembered from a birthday party I went to in 2009.
A few months ago, while out on a story, I met a guy who’s lived in Greenville for years and somehow within a couple of minutes found out that his dad went to high school with my mom in Wilmington, NC.
One recent morning, while waiting for a bagel at the coffee shop up the street, a man stopped me to ask about a ring I wear every day. It’s a tree of life, but from where he was sitting he thought it was designed to represent the gates of Charleston. This one was easy. A mention of Charleston always winds its way into a conversation about how much I love “the holy city” and enjoyed my time living there. He left while I continued to wait for my bagel, but I recognized how he changed my mood. Not that I was sad or grumpy, but I was standing there surrounded by the cafe’s dreamy white tile, marble and glass decor, zoning out.
His comment raised me from my feelings of indifferent and made me happy. I was suddenly more aware of my surroundings.
I smiled all the way to the office.
Strangers talking to each other is an endangered phenomenon and one of my favorite things that happen on this Earth.