February 1, 2014

The Company of Strangers

Living and working alone means it's up to me to get out regularly and interact with others, ensuring some sunshine for the soul. Connection is important for us - I have lively conversations with my cat, but it's not quite the same. (Although I have to admit, he's an amazingly attentive listener, staring at me while I blather on and even nodding at times - or more likely nodding off.)

So this year, one of my resolutions was to talk more to strangers. And I'm happy to report that the universe sent some incredibly interesting and nice people to meet all throughout the month of January. I generally watch for body language - it says a lot about whether someone is open or closed - and when the opportunity arises, I greet strangers with "Hello, Bonjour!", in consideration of Verdun's bilingual community.

From homeless to high-brow, everyone I have approached has had an interesting story to tell. A young couple new to the neighbourhood were full of suggestions for local dining - a man at the bus stop had stories to share about his son, who was just headed for the Olympics, he was so proud. Yesterday I helped an older man with a white cane find a seat on the bus, and he and I got chatting about "being in the moment." He says he lives in the present, and likes to laugh. He meets his old friends at the Jean Talon market every week for what he says is "the best espresso in town." Another woman mentioned a new bakery in the area, and thus began a whole conversation about food, lifestyles and travel. She is a vegetarian, had recently returned from India, and wanted to hear more about my travels in Africa. We were still chatting when we both arrived at our destination, and it turns out she lives on my block -- we've promised to go for walks when the weather gets better.

Speaking about the weather - well, that's just a great conversation starter. I'm just back from lunch at a pizza joint, where I found myself in conversation with two old gals, also eating alone. We all agreed that it has been a particularly harsh winter, but that we are lucky to be in Canada. If the weather is all that we have to complain about, that's a good thing! And we commiserated over the tragic death of a woman last week in the subway, noting that these are sharp reminders to enjoy every day. You never know when your time is up.

Laugh, sing, eat with gusto and enjoy life. Watch this beautiful video and notice how, when we find joy, we always turn to meet someone else's eyes and share the moment. We are all one.



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