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December 30, 2014

Seeing Ourselves Clearly through Interactions with Strangers.

talk to strangers

Throughout my life, I have had moving encounters from the kindness of strangers.

These interactions typically throw me for a loop, leaving me thinking about our conversation, myself and my purpose. These strangers have ranged from nuns in full garb to the elderly to individuals who had an innate sense that they shared some kind of deeper energetic connection with me.

I have decided to start documenting these encounters, beginning with one that took place about 30 minutes ago.

I was working at my dessert shop when a woman and three teenagers came in. At first, the woman rubbed me the wrong way. I was already in a bit of a funk, so I had little tolerance.

She requested I switch out our homemade whipped cream because she could see specks in the one that was already out. She then inquired about a detailed breakdown of how we maintain cleanliness in my store. She wanted to know the brand and strength of our sanitizer, how often we cleaned our spoons, how often we cleaned the handles on our machines and what exactly was my role in this business.

“Are you the owner?” she asked.

“Basically. The owners are absentee, so I run all of the operations.”

“What would someone in your position make hourly?”

I felt offended.

“I am salaried. I have set bonuses each month that will increase based on sales.”

“If my daughter were to work here, how much would she make?”

I proceed to go through the system I established, including probationary period, 90 day review and annual review, and titles in my store. Meanwhile the three teenagers are playing on the store’s iPads. The woman was standing breaths distance from me.

She leaned in, “I’ve been at my same job for 30 years and I make less than you do.”

“Well, if it is any consolation, I have a law degree and I’m working here.”

After that statement, our conversation grew more serious.

I then realized that this woman, who annoyed me, was someone who had gone through many life experiences, like me, and was simply beaten down at this point. She carried her past in her face.

Before I knew it, we were sharing some of the most intimate details of our lives with each other.

I explained to her what led me here (Massachusetts and my current job). I touched on the fact that I wished to be an author. She then inquired what kind of books do I write. I told her about my memoir.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“Just turned 29.”

“You are very mature for your age. You keep talking about these “life experiences” are you referring to heartbreak?”

“Yes. But on numerous levels, not just romantically.”

Then I touched on my relationship with my mother.

The “annoying” woman then shared that her husband passed away when their only child was five years old and that she fell into a great depression. Her daughter would find her on the stoop in their garage, crying and smoking, asking her to come play.

The woman went on to tell me she feels obliged to give into her daughter’s every demand because much of her childhood was robbed. She also informed me that she almost died during childbirth and that her daughter does not know that she is one of whom was originally twins.

She also told me she cares for her brother who had brain surgery, lost all short-term memory and is a bit harsh.

She continued to look at me, up and down and deep into my eyes, as if she was scanning me to store in her memory banks.

You’re someone that’s going places.”

“I have been told that all of my life. While, I certainly hope it’s true—the scary part is, what if I don’t?”

“You will.” She said with conviction.

“I am 53 years old and feel like I can talk to you as if you were my peer. Your mother should be proud to have a son like you.”

I smiled, knowing my mother doesn’t express feelings of empathy and love accurately.

She asked for my name and then told me how honored she was to have learned about parts of my life.

“This was the best experience, not because of the dessert, but because of the conversation.” she remarked.

She smiled at me.

“You need to give yourself more credit. You went to law school and finished with the odds against you. You live a life of constant sorrow because your mother can’t be the mother you want her to be. You survived a horrendous heartbreak and are still charming, inviting and warm.”

I am not very good with accepting compliments. I felt very overwhelmed at this point.

“Thank you,” I humbly replied.

She gathered her teenagers, smiled once more and waved goodbye.

Thank you universe. I needed that. I needed to connect with a stranger at that very moment.


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Author: Christian Escalona

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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