Chance encounters make a difference

She was there at the end of the trail, where dirt meets concrete. Standing in the sunlight, her bike leaning up against the bench that overlooks the river valley below. It was our second encounter.

“Hey!” she called out as Ellie and I exited the trailhead onto the sidewalk leading back to the parking lot. “So nice to see you again. Isn’t it beautiful?”

And it was. A perfect winter afternoon. Not cold. Temperature hovering around freezing. Bright sunshine spilling shadows across the snow.

We chatted for a few moments and then she exclaimed. “Know what I’m going to do when I get home?” She didn’t wait for an answer before continuing. “I’ve got a lawn chair on my front lawn. We face south. I’m going to take my tea and sit in my chair, I’ll stay dressed up in my outer clothes of course,” and in the same breath, she swept one arm down her brown and red ski suit and kept going. “And I’m going to sit there. Only,” she paused, her bright blue eyes squinting at me, “I’m not sure what to do while I’m sitting there. What do you think I should do? Any suggestions.”

I didn’t really have any suggestions. I was enthralled with this stream of dialogue from a stranger. Enthralled with the beauty of the day.

She didn’t wait for an answer. “You know the neighbours might look at me funny sitting out there in winter. What do you think?” And then she proceeded to tell me about a bedroom that her son had just vacated which she didn’t want to turn into a bedroom again and had a beautiful dresser and… Finally, she took a breath.

“Why do you need a reason to sit out in the sunshine on your front lawn at any time of year?” I asked.

She chortled at my question. “It’s such a habit,” she exclaimed. “Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’m going to go do it and not worry about what I should be doing doing nothing!” and she hopped on her bike and took off down the trail, her cheery, “Wonderful to chat with you. Hope I see you again!” drifting back towards me.

I smiled. What a perfect encounter.

And when I got home, I grabbed my journal, a pen, a cup of tea, and a blanket to wrap myself in and sat on the back deck, soaking up the afternoon sun, listening to the birds in the bushes and writing myself out onto the page.

In that encounter, I was made different. In that encounter with a stranger, I was inspired to enjoy the moment, to sink into the sunshine and simply be, present.

I met a woman on the trail yesterday. She made a difference.


and… there’s more to the story… visit me at Recover Your Joy to find out all about snow angels and other divine happenings.

Stop Judging

I had coffee with a dear friend yesterday, one of my oldest here in this city. I needed his guidance on something and he gladly offered up his time.

As we sat and talked and laughed and shared our hopes and dreams and challenges I was struck by how much we have both been ‘made different’ through this friendship.

My friend is pragmatic. He can always serve up a dour perspective on life and the economy, on government’s and social movements that states, ‘we are all going to hell in a handbasket’. In his pragmatic approach I have learned to listen to and honour another perspective, to hear another’s voice with awe and gratitude. And in that hearing, I let go of criticism, and the need to change the other to my point of view and open up to learning and growing on the common ground of respect for one another.

I am less pragmatic, taking a more Pollyanna approach to life and living. I want him to see the goodness in all mankind, the possibility of ‘better’, the imperative of kindness and letting people be their experiences while ensuring no one dies on our streets. His response has generally been, “Then let them experience cleaning up, getting a job, getting on with life. It’s not a free-ride.”

When I worked at the homeless shelter, I struggled to convince him to see the world of homelessness through my eyes. And he resisted my insistence he was wrong to view the world his way. Go figure. Over time, I quit insisting he see it my way by admitting the errors of his way, and moved into a place where his way had equal voice. And in that shift, everything shifted. We were both made different. We both let go of our intransigent views and opened up to the possibilities of another way — another way that lead to the building of common ground for the mutual benefit of all. Where once the line was drawn and we could not cross the barriers of our convictions, the light has filtered in, creating softness in those places where once only hard rock theories abounded.

To make a difference in the world I must let go of my insistence that my way is the only way. Years ago, while healing from an abusive relationship that almost cost me my life, I asked my therapist, “If I’m an experiential learner, why is it I need such big experiences to get to where I want to be?”

And he replied, “There were a thousand paths you could have taken. This just happens to be the one you took. Accept where you’re at and stop judging the journey. Where you’re at is where you’re at. Period.”

To make a difference in the world I must stop judging where others are at and find the common ground of where we all live in a world where everyone has value and every point of view creates a world we can live in without fear.