My life experiences thus far have shown me that humans, while so different, in many ways are quite alike, and all very interesting. The chance to connect with anyone, even a stranger, for only a minute holds the possibility of being life changing.
Between the years of 2007 and 2011, I followed my boyfriend at the time from Small Town, WI to Sanford, Florida. The beginning of our relationship was a whirlwind. Not too long before we started dating he had broken up with his girlfriend of 3+ years, and I had finally ended a very abusive relationship. We met through my cousin and within a couple weeks of first meeting, around Christmas, we began dating.
We had only been together a few weeks when he told me that it had been his life-long dream (he was 25, I was 20) to be an airline pilot, but never felt the support of his girlfriend at the time, and had never had enough confidence to just go for it. But now, he was going to do it. I supported it. I was quite excited for him, and while I liked him a lot, our relationship was so new, neither of us were too seriously invested. Our own lives were our priorities. He told me he’d be moving to Florida within a month or so.
About a week or 2 after him breaking the news, we went for a walk around his neighborhood. He asked me to move to Florida with him. He was wonderful, I was young and had never lived outside of Wisconsin, or done anything so….big! So, I said “Why not?!” and we both said if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. By the time we had been dating for 6 weeks, he moved. I stayed behind to work and save money for another 6 weeks.
While Florida may not seem too far or very different, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. I was used to the small town life, knowing everyone, keeping my doors unlocked…our first night together there he took me for a ride on his motorcycle. My first time. He was one of those men with a compass built into his nose. Navigating his way by the sun and the stars. We were riding along on some back roads in the Ocala National Forest when we saw something amazing in the sky. A shiny metallic object flying higher and higher into the sky. Fire and a huge line of white smoke attached as a tail. We stopped in the parking lot of a gas station to watch our first (of many) Space Shuttle leave our atmosphere. A breathtaking sight.
As we sat there, taking it all in, smiling and so excited, we are interrupted by a car suddenly pulling up to the front door of the gas station, a guy runs out leaving it running, runs into the store, runs back out with a 6pack of beer, drives off with tires squealing, and the owner running out, yelling, scissors in one hand, a portable phone in the other. This was our first (also of many) time we ever saw a robbery, let alone any crime in general. (We stayed long enough where a retail store I worked for was robbed of clothes on a near-daily basis, where we locked the doors during the day while we were at home without even thinking about it, and when Casey Anthony “lost” her daughter….Florida soon became a place like no other.)
One day, one of my favorite experiences not only of living in Florida but of my entire life thus far, took place at a Publix. Now if you know me, you know I have a severe distaste for grocery shopping. I just don’t like it. But one day, after hearing how great the Publix stores are (seriously, how “great” can a grocery store be??!?! …well….they need those stores everywhere because they. are. wonderful. !! (Although Woodman’s and Festival Foods here in Wisconsin are pretty great too)) we decided to do our shopping there. Now, another thing to know about me is that I rarely have any sense of “stranger danger”. I’m quite comfortable with striking up a conversation with any random person in the vicinity. While we were in the checkout line, I noticed the older gentleman behind me was wearing a Green Bay Packers hat. HELL YES! I am not only PROUD to be from WISCONSIN, I am PROUD to be a PACKER-backer CHEESEHEAD through and through. So, of course, like a giddy little girl I turn to him and say, “Awesome hat! I’m from Wisconsin!” And do you know how that man replied??!? He said to me, “Thanks, I used to play for the Packers”.
Well my jaw dropped and I somehow became even more giddy (and goofy) than before. “OH MY GOD who are you?!?” I asked while extending my hand for a shake. “Gene Breen” he said, “I played in ’64 with Bart Starr”. After telling him how amazing that was, as if he didn’t know, he told me he’d always consider himself a Packer, and them to be his team. “It’s a great organization and a great state.” It was then that I realized this was THE ONE TIME I had left my camera and phone at home. But even without the physical proof of this memory, this is one I will never forget. I walked out of that store just beaming. The coolest person I had met, hands down. So nice, so humble, so proud of this great thing he was once a part of that he will always feel part of it. ((Later I concluded that due to “A+B=B+C means A=C” transitive property or something (I hate math.), since I shook his hand, he on many occasions shook/high-fived Bart Starr’s hand, I have, therefore, touched Bart Starr’s hand (just let a girl dream her dream).)) And we had a connection. Something so seemingly simple as a logo on a hat turned out to be something so big for both of us. Two strangers, one love. And then we both turned and walked along and moved on with our lives.
What I am trying to convey with this story, is that other people come in and out of our lives. Sometimes their presence is fleeting, sometimes it becomes permanent. Never be afraid to reach out. Always be kind. Make a connection, be it with a smile, a compliment, or even a proposal for a first date. The world is full of a lot of people. All different, and all alike. You never know the impact a personal encounter can hold…where in the world it can take you, what of the world it can teach you. Humans, can be, beautiful creatures. Let’s not let each other forget it.