When Brief Interactions with Strangers Results in Guidance and Support

Where do I go from here? 

How do I get there? 

How can I manage to feel whole (again)? 

These questions have flooded my mind throughout much of my adult life. And with the (current) widespread realization that things in our world need to change, you may be asking yourself similar questions. Perhaps you’re looking for peace or purpose in your life, or maybe healing. Maybe you’re looking to find more of what you’ve already got. Regardless of what it is you’re looking for, I believe there are clues and answers all around us, even in brief interactions with strangers.

I couldn’t go through life alone, and frankly, I don’t believe “alone” exists. There have been many instances where I felt like an island, but even then, I was connected to others. Thanks to my ancestors, my teachers, and my teachers’ teachers, and beyond, I am connected to more than I could ever know.

For all of the moments that feel isolated, I find it encouraging to know that our journeys are woven with humans throughout the world and history. The wisdom that has found its way to us has done so through a chain of people throughout time. Suppose my friend shares with me a story and all of its details. What needed to occur in history for all moments and those characters to align for this story to take place?

When I take time to reflect on my life, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the people who have helped me heal and overcome adversity. This list, of course, includes family, friends, and school teachers. However, I would be remiss if I failed to mention brief interactions with perfect strangers that occurred seemingly out of nowhere, which offered wisdom and insight into my life. You can call this whatever you want: energy, God, luck, coincidence, but it’s there. It continues to be everywhere. If only we (myself included) would put our phones down for half a second to continue to notice all the gifts that are trying to reach us.

Hopelessness, fear, pain, and distractions can act as blinders and prevent us from seeing the guidance of these offerings. Clues are everywhere, including in our (world) community.

A Brief Farmers Market Encounter

It was June, and I ran the tent for a local farm at a market just outside the city. For the most part, the traffic was low and the days were slow. Slow days at the market meant I stood around with my thoughts as I waited for customers to mosey in my direction. I had recently gone through a couple of brutal relationships, and they left me feeling torn and defeated. I didn’t know where to go next or how to feel right again.

One Saturday, at the end of my shift, a woman 20-ish years my senior came out of nowhere and struck up a conversation. Perhaps we were drawn to each other, or maybe she was intuitive and could see me deep in rough thoughts.

I remember three things from that conversation: her calm demeanor, her light-heartedness, and something she said: “Sometimes, when you don’t know where to go next, just get real quiet and pay attention.” Her words and presence shook me as she couldn’t have been more apropos for the moment. You know how there are times when someone swoops in and offers us warmth and wisdom just when we need it? That’s what this interaction provided me. At this moment, I accepted the fact that there are people everywhere helping us along. I knew better than to disregard this magical moment. Immediately, I put her words in my pocket and referred to them when needed.

A Long Wait for the Bus

It was a summer day. I stood waiting for the bus feeling mostly dreary and dull. At the time, it was commonplace for me to feel this way, so the reason for this mood escapes me. As I approached the bus stop, I checked my phone and saw the bus would be another 17 minutes. For seventeen minutes, it would be just me and another gal waiting on this quiet street, and I felt awkward and annoyed about this.

I reluctantly said hello, and she took the opportunity to open up about her day and life. She talked about struggle and gratitude. She expressed appreciation for everything she has and how far kindness can travel. I barely spoke for the entire 17 minutes. I simply listened. Honestly, I’m not sure she gave me room to talk, but does it matter? For this small window of time, she was my teacher offering up her wisdom and gratitude. I knew it would best serve me to feel what she was saying. She reminded me of the value of appreciation while helping to pull me out of that day’s dreariness. I didn’t catch her name, and I never saw her again, but her words and lessons stuck with me.

Taxi Cab Banter

There I was, yet again, finished with a restaurant shift late in the night. I was sipping on coffee, which the driver immediately noticed. “Do you always drink coffee at 1am?” “It’s not unheard of.” This led to a conversation, and eventually, we were going back and forth about things that move us. He listened as I yammered on about the color blue and pink. He mentioned an idea for a book that he had put on the back burner years prior.

The conversation led both of us to remember and discuss our mutual love for writing and how we both had stopped pursuing writing projects that brought us joy. He had been hustling for work, and I for school. We both agreed that we had got lost in the bustle of running from place to place. He encouraged me. I encouraged him. Then we arrived at my destination, I exited the vehicle, and he drove into the night. This conversation in a cab at one in the morning reawakened my desire for creativity. Perhaps it did the same for him. 

Shall I go on and on?

There was a conversation that informed me of free therapy in the city when I was down and out. When I served coffee, a customer directed me to an artist grant that gave me funds to explore and heal. And then, of course, there are the people who remind me, regularly, to slow down and enjoy the ride. There are the folks who blow me away with kindness, and hope is restored.

It’s Simple, but Perhaps, It’s Not Easy

What has been most challenging to me is not only noticing these lessons but allowing them to guide me. There are people out there supporting and helping us, even if only for a brief moment and maybe without them knowing. Why not allow them to do so when it feels right. I ignored so many of these lessons for years, even when they shouted in my face, “YOU ARE WORTHY AND HAVE GIFTS TO SHARE!!” This is a reminder that guidance is everywhere and in every moment. 

These guiding lights can be our elders, our babies, neighbors, parents, bus drivers, baristas, and the person behind us in line at the coffee shop. I find it easy to get anxious and lose myself in my thoughts and worry. The news is flooded with anxiety and fear, and it’s easy to allow it all to saturate our minds. But then, there’s a chance to take a breath and look around us and see our teachers everywhere guiding us back to our path of peace and purpose. 

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