It began with a man named “Frank.” I was sitting in Starbucks and needed to use the restroom. He was sitting across from me. I had noticed him before as he was a regular there and always dressed nicely. I notice things like that. I didn’t want to carry all my stuff to the bathroom so asked if he had recently brushed up on his wrestling skills just in case someone would try to abscond with my laptop while I was away. He promised to tackle anyone who might try a grab and run. When I returned we struck up a conversation. This was an unlikely pairing in my mind. I mean, my “friends” are all Christian, white, homeschool moms. Okay, maybe not ALL of them. But one of those three categories would be the bulk of my friends.
Growing up I was painfully shy, but found my voice in the written word. I later discovered popularity in social media. Oh how easy it is to be pop-u-lar (How can you say that word without singing the song?) when you have 12 Thousand Twitter followers and 2500 Facebook “Friends.” The illusion of online friends became quite apparent in the months after Mike’s death. I was strongly supported by my online community. I was even financially supported by many. It was mostly my online connections that raised enough money for his burial, and later that kept my family from becoming homeless when I could no longer pay the rent. Yes, they were there for me! Except … when I wanted to go to a movie. Or go out for dinner. Or even just to go to a friend’s house to chat for awhile. I only had a couple of real life honest to goodness, belly to belly friends here.
About a year and a half after Mike died I felt like I was dying too. I would get out in the world, but I didn’t really talk to people much. It wasn’t until the embers were reignited that I realized how little fire I had in me. Oh sure, I could be alive, and fun, and dance, and all that stuff that made me think I was alive.
Then I met, the random stranger. He was nothing like anyone I had ever connected with in my life. In other words, he wasn’t in the three categories, white, Christian, homeschool mom. It’s funny how when you meet someone, they become familiar to you. For the next week or so, I seemed to see him every time I went to Starbucks. I felt a bit like he might think I was stalking him. But now that we “knew” each other, we saw each other. I felt like I had a new friend there.
One night my son was doing his yellow suit in town square thing, so I was hanging out for several hours. Frank and I sat and talked the entire time. I was fascinated by his stories of Egypt and his Muslim faith. I felt like my world expanded with just one random stranger. For one, I discovered that he had no interest in converting me, or killing me. That was a huge relief! That was what I thought every Muslim was out to do. I found myself wanting to learn Arabic and traveling the world.
Then one day I realized, there was a fire again. The fire started with one spark ignited by an unlikely random stranger, which has now turned into a quest to meet random strangers on a daily basis. I’ve begun posting on Facebook photos and stories of random strangers that I meet. One really cool thing about it is that I’m seeing people respond with their own random stranger encounters. You know, the world gets a whole lot smaller when you are willing to talk to random strangers. #randomstrangers