I had just exited my stall and was standing at the sink washing my hands when a lady looking into the mirror beside me said VERY LOUDLY, “Ain’t no way I’m gonna have another baby at 39 years old no matter what my man says!”
There was no one else in the bathroom. She wasn’t wearing an earpiece and I didn’t see a phone. She was talking to me, it seemed. We didn’t know each other. The lady worked there in the food court, in a mall I’d never been to, in a city I’d never lived in.
But she seemed adamant so I nodded at her in agreement.
I guess the lady took this as encouragement. She had more to say.
“It was hard enough with the other two when I was young. At 21 that was hard enough! No, if he wants a baby, he can put a diaper on that hound dog he bought himself without asking me one word about it. He can carry it around and call that his baby. No sir, I just ain’t going to do it.”
“Makes sense to me,” I said.
She grinned at me and said, “Well now, aren’t you sweet! YOU JUST HAVE A BLESSED DAY!”
I left the bathroom, laughing to myself.
She was the second stranger who’d struck up a conversation with me that morning. As I walked through the cloud of Cinnabon butteriness and out of the food court, I remembered the lady stirring the eggs a few hours earlier at the hotel breakfast buffet. When I asked her how she was doing, she had smiled and said, “I’m fine. Being at work is a rest, compared with home. We just got a puppy.”
“No wonder you’re tired!” I said.
She nodded. “He’s still little bitty so he keeps us up all night, whining for his mama. But I don’t mind. You got a dog?”
I told her all about Rosie and how she’d whimper until one night I finally got out of bed and gave her the sash of my fluffy pink bathrobe to drag around the kennel and snuggle until life was good again.
“Ours is a Jack Russell terrier. The kids named him Jackie. Not real original but what can you do?”
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders.
“Jack Russells can’t just eat any dog food, you know. They have to have a special diet. I’ve been reading on the internet all about it cause we want to keep him healthy. I just love learning new things like that, don’t you?”
“I do. It keeps life interesting.”
“EXACTLY!” she said. “I love to learn about all kinds of things. I believe that dog and I are going to be good for each other.”
As I walked down the mall, looking into the eyes of the people walking by, I wondered what it was about these random conversations that made me so happy. After all, I’m an introvert. Plus, I HATE the mall! I’d only gone there to bide my time while my road trip buddy was in interviews. I had planned to spend the day visiting the World’s Largest Coffee Pot and then touring around the park downtown, but the miserable pouring rain all nixed all that. The two antique stores I’d scoped out on the internet were closed, so there I was, walking through the mall. Surrounded by strangers with words to say.
Surprisingly, I ate it up!
Maybe I like talking to strangers because so often they shock me by being HILARIOUS and warm. Maybe I like talking to them because they keep life interesting! They keep me learning new things – and old things that I forget sometimes, as I’m grumbling about the state of the world. They remind me that people are fascinating, that everyone has a story, and that life feels richer when we share our lives with each other.
The last couple of weeks, as we prepared for and celebrated Epiphany, I heard a lot from my friends in ministry about “star words”- paper stars, each with a word printed on it. You take a star, read its word (like joy or trust or community or loyalty or prayer or tenderness, you get the idea), and let the word on it guide you through the new year. I think this year I’m going to choose my own star word: connection. It might be just right for this introvert, a reminder to come out of my rabbit hole a little more often, to pass up the World’s Biggest Coffee Pot or the park downtown for random conversations with some strangers or friends. You want to join me? It’s sure to keep life interesting!
Now YOU JUST HAVE A BLESSED DAY!