I’ve once heard it said that life is merely a series of conversations as one person shares their story with another. I am certain this is true. When I reflect upon the events of the day, my thoughts often drift to the people I encounter and the exchange of words between us rather than the minutia of the daily grind. There are several conversations that have become a part of my soul and will remain that way for the rest of my life. For example, I will always remember talking to my Dad as he escorted me out of Moody Coliseum, clutching my college degree in one hand and his arm in the other, or my sister waking me up in the middle of the night to tell me I am going to be an aunt. Of course there are some that I would rather forget (ironically those are the conversations that have been the most formative) and there some that stick out in my mind because of peculiarity, but mostly the exchanges that resonate with me are the ones that cause me to change the way I view the world. One of these conversations took place on Monday afternoon.
Unsuspectingly, I was waiting for my drink at a local coffee shop when a man walked by and commented on my shoes. As a fashionista wannabe (I’m too cheap to be a real one), I willingly accepted his compliment and engaged him in conversation. “I very much like your tattoo. You’re a rebel, aren’t you?” he inquired. Blushing, I smirked and said, “Yes, in my own way I have always been a bit on the rebellious side.” “I knew it,” he said, “I can tell there is something different about you. It is the divine.” Intrigued, I continued talking to the man trying to decipher if he was speaking in more spiritual terms or if he was referring to The Divine One. He asked me a slew of questions but inquired about them in such a way that it was almost as if he already knew the answers. Bizarre.
No topic was taboo for him and he began to tell me about his immigration from Africa to America. Fascinating. His smile was honest and sincere, his eyes piercing as if he was looking not at my but in me, searching to discover who I am. He then paused as if an epiphany jolted his brain. “You are very well balanced. You are very feminine, but you have a masculine side, which is why you are a rebel. Many people are attracted to you and they think it is sexual, but what they are drawn to is The Great I Am.” Though it was a little awkward to receive (and a bit more awkward to write), I had the answer to my question. This man, who has only interacted with me for five minutes, knew more about me than friends I have known for five years. Unsure of what just happened or what was going to transpire, I looked up at him with a glance of affirmation. His eyes were kind. “Now Michelle, what can I do to add value to your life?”
I had no response, not because I did not know, but because of the depth of the query. “No one has ever asked me that question before,” I told him. “Especially with such genuineness.” “Let me rephrase, what can I share with you that will impact your life?” Again, I was dumbstruck. We continued the conversation and exchanged information so that we could, as he put it “celebrate together” (I’m still not sure what this means). I left the coffee shop with a new friend, but I also left with a profound clarity. Everyday I have interactions with people that contain the ritual pleasantries and life catch-ups on my way to the Campus Center or as I walk the halls of my building, but rarely do they involve such intentionality. Do I take the time out of my day to actually see the people that I talk to? Do I have a positive influence on the people I call my friends? Do I take the time become a part of their story, or do I rely on my knowledge about them to maintain the relationship? What can I offer to bring value to peoples lives and why don’t I ask that question to the people that I care for the most?
I don’t know if I will have another interaction with man from the coffee shop, but I do know that he impacted my life by merely posing the question.