Well, so far 2011 has been more than I can handle. I’ve been in a dark place making some reckless decisions and I can not thank my friends enough for sticking by me. I don’t know what I would have done without shoulders to cry on and homemade dinners to feed me and faithful ears to listen to me even though – as my incredible friends who listened to me vent for a couple hours in a Charlottesville Wendy’s last night will tell you – most of what I have to say is a little nutty. The point is when things get bad, you can wallow for a bit, but then you have to pick yourself up and take control of your life. I’m holding on to that concept of starting resolutions at any point in your life, and trying to do some healthy things for myself starting March 1.
I started today with my 7AM yoga class that I’ve been skipping for, well, a couple months. As I was walking to yoga this morning, I had a lot of thoughts going through my head. I admired the sunrise and thought about how GOOD it feels to see the sky like that. I remembered how beautiful the sunset was last night and I felt lucky that I got to see the whole thing unfold all over the mountain skyline during my drive. I thought about how many times in the past 6 years I’d made this same early morning walk to the gym. And then remembered this encounter I had a few years ago during one of those walks…
So I want to tell you that story, but first, have you ever been to the gym before 7AM? Its usually not the most talkative place. No matter what your motivation, after trekking through the dark and freezing temperatures, most people aren’t in a talky mood. They’re still waking up or they’re on a mission to beat their personal best 5K time and, yeah, people tend to keep to themselves. I’m a morning person. And a people person. I know more GOOD MORNING songs than you’ve ever heard of (thank you 4-H, color guard, and pre-school). =
So, back to my story, I remembered this time I was walking to yoga a couple years ago. It was about 6:45AM and I ended up walking next to this athletic guy in his mid-twenties and instead of cruising by while plugged into his iPOD, he walked right next to me and said,
“Hey! Are you going to work out?”
I was so excited that someone else wanted to have a pre-7AM conversation that I practically shouted YES but it was fine because he was all pumped about his workout, too! He told me he was a grad student (which seemed old at the time… oh man… anyway) and that he was just learning his way around JMU and he was so excited about this new Recreation Center. He had tons of questions so I told him everything about JMU that I could cram into our 5 minute walk together, and that conversation made my morning.
Back to real life time this morning, thinking about this conversation reminded me of all of these crazy wonderful interactions I’ve had with strangers. Remember my first blog entry about a man I’d never met buying my coffee at the gas station? Seriously WHO goes out of their way to buy ANYTHING for a stranger? An awesome stranger.
Some strangers are not awesome, but they are still worth talking to. I was riding in my car a few weeks ago with my friend, Kara, and this random lady pulled up next to me at a light and honked her horn and screamed at me to roll down my window. I was kind of intimidated, honestly, she seemed a little crazy. When I finally did roll down my window, she SCREAMED, “HI THANK YOU DO YOU KNOW WHERE A STARBUCKS IS?!” …I could not help but laugh hysterically. I mean if that isn’t a commercial for Starbucks, I don’t know what is. Fortunately, althoughI could not contain my laughter, Kara was able to direct this poor women to the closest Starbucks (which was pretty far away). Meanwhile the light was green and everyone behind us was ready to progress through the intersection. They didn’t honk, though, because this is Harrisonburg and people are nice here.
Okay, so that wasn’t a change-my-life kind of encounter, but its a story that I love telling. The point is, I love interacting with strangers. I understand why we tell kids not to talk to strangers and I know that Stranger Danger saves lives. I’m not advising anyone to get into a car with a stranger…unless the situation is definitely safe. Last year I was walking to class and I got caught behind a train. There was no way I was going to make it there in time, and the SWEETEST woman ever rolled down her car window and asked if I was going to school and if I wanted a ride. I said yes. She drove me. It saved my whole day. Also, one of my best JMU friends, Kristiff, (actually that’s two people but anyway) we did take a ride from a movie theater back to campus freshmen year, but our driver was a JMU senior who told us it was okay to get in the car because we reminded her of herself. Yeah.
The thing is, we’re all people. We’re all dealing with our own struggles and its easy to dismiss people you don’t know as people who don’t matter. They do matter. One positive interaction with someone who needs encouragement is a big, big deal. Be safe. Trust your instincts. Don’t make reckless decisions, but feel free to say hello to strangers. Talk to them. Let them make your day. OR make their day. You are a stranger, too, you know.