One of the things I like to do while traveling is to get outside of my box, my bubble, my little world and interact with those around me in a deeper way. It is more than a “Hi, how are you?” — it is to engage them in conversation. Because I have learned that there are so many interesting, challenging, inspiring or fascinating stories out there — you just need to 1) ask and 2) take the time to listen. I think part of the reason most don’t do this is that we are too busy to slow down, take a look around and really soak up what is around us. As Ferris Bueller says “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Usually I do this while sitting on a plane. If my seatmate wants to engage in conversation, it is a perfect place to get to know someone because you have a few hours to spend. The people I met below were not on the plane with me, but rather people I bumped into during the course of my day. Hence, I was not lucky enough to spend a few hours with them. In some cases it was only a few minutes. But as you will see, some of those few minutes really mattered and really enlightened my day.
The older gentlemen with the grey shortly cropped beard was mostly done with his breakfast as the hostess seated me next to him in the booth and long line of tables facing the window looking out onto the Embarkadero in San Francisco. We greeted one another and I thought that would be it — he would return to his paper and I could read the menu and dive into my devotional and Bible. Which is what happened.
I ordered my breakfast with Dani, my friendly waitress. Soon enough, in fact, very quickly my breakfast was delivered. This surprised the gentleman next to me who made a comment about how quick it was and perfect timing on my part. He also made a mention of my “religiousness” or spirituality based on my Bible reading which began a conversation that lasted my entire breakfast – 20 minutes or so. His name is Jeff and he was traveling from Philadelphia to give some training. He was only in the city for 2 days and was leaving the next day. He has been married 19 years to his wife Lisa and they have two teenage kids. We talked about how God has worked in our careers, about where our country is headed, the values of our nation and things you wouldn’t expect from a light breakfast conversation. We have both had challenges in old bosses and were able to commiserate together. His wife is currently having some career struggles too and I told him I would pray for her. He thanked me and gave me his business card as he left for his day.
As most of you know, In N Out Burger is my favorite food place to hit when I am traveling out west. This trip I was lucky enough to get in three visits. The first visit was immediately after landing at SFO and was my first stop after retrieving my rental car. I ordered my standard — a #1 meal (Double-Double, no sauce, ketchup and mustard instead of the spread, no onions, fries, a large drink) and a large strawberry shake. I also threw in a t-shirt because they had a new back design since I was there last. My order number was 85.
Once my number was called, I grabbed my box tray and headed outside to a hard stone table to enjoy the beautiful weather and because the inside was full.
—– TANGENT ON —–
When living in California I used to take the weather for granted. Because it was always beautiful weather, I did not have to take advantage of it and would mostly eat inside. If I wanted to enjoy the day outside, I could at any time in the future. Now, however, because in Kentucky we don’t always get perfect weather, I always go out of my way to enjoy a nice day outside. And if the opportunity comes up, I will choose to eat outside if the weather allows it wherever I am. This day was definitely one of those days.
—– TANGENT OFF —–
I devoured my meal because it had been a full year since my last enjoyment and enjoyed the warmth of the middle afternoon sun. I had eaten a light breakfast but was starving on the plane and put off buying any airport crap food just so I could soak up my In N Out meal.
As I was eating, an older Hispanic woman in full In N Out garb hit each table outside, wiping them down and throwing away any residual meal litter. I greeted her as she came by my table and she replied. I asked how her day was going and she said it was going well. Her name was Veronica and she was from Guatemala. She came to the U.S. when she was 19 and was now 50 years old and very happy to work for In N Out Burger. She said that the company is very good to work for and she was very grateful to be there. I told her she looked wonderful for being 50 years old and then she diligently went back to her tasks. Again, it wasn’t a long conversation but gave me a perspective that I might have missed had I not said hi. I walked over to say goodbye to her when I left and she left me with a smile.
Interestingly, the next day when I went there with a friend for lunch (aren’t you surprised?), she was working again. I greeted her by name and she recognized me. We exchanged pleasantries and my friend was very surprised and made the comment “You make friends everywhere”. Pretty funny. And again, I said goodbye to her on my way out and was treated with a smile.
Jamba Juice is my breakfast equivalent of In N Out Burger. I try to hit there in the morning to grab a smoothie and something for breakfast. Patrick was my order taker although his decorated name badge said “Pat Rick”. I ordered my standard – a large strawberries wild with immunity boost – and added a sausage, egg, cheese wrap to it. As I was waiting, a mail carrier came in to order what appeared to be his daily order. He was cheerful and we greeted each other with the guy head nod and a “hi”. After his order of two oatmeals and two smoothies, we greeted again and in our answers to “how are you” one of us said “blessed”. That got us on a short conversation of faith. He lives in the city but comes south for his mail route. He is a believer and quoted how we are to be cities on a hill. I could see the light of Jesus within him and he was cheerful and friendly. I just imagine what a blessing he is to those who are on his route. I can imagine he keeps an eye on the elderly and shut in people that he brings mail to every day. He was definitely not your typical disgruntled government worker and would put to shame the term “going postal”. In fact, I believe that he would probably redefine the term for everyone and make it a much more positive phrase.
James, my brother, you are in my prayers to be safe, strong and out there for Christ.
There were a few more this week but I must pack up my things, check out of the hotel, head to Jamba Juice for my breakfast, hit a few meetings, and then take the dreaded red eye home tonight. With God’s grace, I’ll be home this time tomorrow with my family — tired, but home.
I encourage you to get out and meet those folks around you in your world. I continue to be amazed at how God weaves people into our life tapestries — we just need to slow down and take the time to care and listen.
…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net