My Dad definitely had what people call ‘the gift of gab’. I am sure it came in handy for him, being a traveling salesman for much of his career. And I suspect I have inherited a similar gift. I enjoy meeting and getting to know people. And many people, including complete strangers, feel very comfortable talking to and even confiding in me. It has happened to me in elevators, in check out lines, pretty much anywhere!
For example, this past week I attended the Clay County Fair, which is the biggest area fair in northwestern Iowa. It was a lot of walking, so now and then I would find a seat on a bench and take a little beverage break. And each time I felt drawn to a certain bench, which always had someone already sitting there. I politely asked if I could join them, and their enthusiastic yes confirmed that was where I was meant to sit.
My first bench buddy was a lovely older gentleman, who retired from his Iowa farm equipment company several years ago and is now living in Arizona. But every year he flies back to Iowa to see the new farm equipment at the Clay County Fair. He mentioned his wife passed a couple years ago, after being married for 65 years. So I asked him what the secret to such a long and happy marriage was and he said, “Love each other. And never fight.” I asked, “How do you never fight…?” And he said you need to respect each other enough to talk it out and find a solution, together. Simple, priceless advice.
Another bench buddy was a delightful older woman, 82, who mentioned her first child was deaf. She shared a very interesting perspective on the unique challenges, and joys of raising a deaf child. And how she and her husband adjusted their lives and worked together to give him the best life possible. Initially she home schooled their son, but then they decided to send their son to ‘regular school’ to see how he would do. And after asking the teacher to have him sit in the front row, and write the assignments on the board (so he could follow along and easily read her lips), he did very well. But she mentioned the one thing they hadn’t realized was how much we as students learn by the questions OTHER students ask…and he was not able to hear those, or turn around quickly enough to read their lips. But due in great part to their support and love, he excelled in school and obtained a degree, as well is now happily married and living a full and wonderful life.
I also recently chatted with someone while shopping, and they ended up sharing how difficult their marriage had been, including physical and emotional abuse. We ended up crying and hugging each other right there in the dairy aisle (and did get a few odd looks). It was an amazing moment. When these deeply intimate talks with strangers happen, I have learned to just stay attentive and connected as they talk. It sort of feels like being on an emotional Tilt-a-Whirl carnival ride together. Everything and everyone outside of your conversation sort of blurs, and you just focus on each other.
Afterwards, I sometimes feel a bit bewildered, and disorientated that such an intimate discussion could really have happened. But I also strongly feel a higher power, and know it draws me to whomever needed someone to talk and share with. And I am deeply grateful to have been given the gift of being there for someone who needed me. Even if they were a stranger.
Reminds me of that saying, a stranger is just someone you haven’t met yet.