The Power of an Encounter
As I was thinking about reconnecting with old friends, mentors or relatives by just simply reaching out and saying hello and happy new year (not with a mass text) one person really stuck out in my mind.
I met this friend last summer, when I decided to vacation alone for a few days in Myrtle Beach.
The goal of my trip was to get away, spend some time by myself and be badass enough to go on vacation alone.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I slept in when I wanted to, I got up early and had breakfast when I wanted to, if I wanted breakfast at all. I laid on the beach in the late afternoons and then I went to the pool or hot tub whenever I liked.
One afternoon after my dolphin tour, I went for lunch at a new restaurant. I had a great conversation with the restaurant owner who was intrigued I was vacationing alone. In walks an energetic food critic who is reviewing the restaurant and was chatting up the restaurant owner.
She asks for my opinion for her column and I share it. But I warn her I’m part of the media too. As more information is exchanged, we both found that we went to the same university and shared the same beloved professors. We exchanged information and she offered to take me out on the town during my trip and I looked forward to it.
I ended up seeing her sooner than I expected, but under not so great circumstances.
My car broke down at one of the tourist traps later that night, and alone and about 500 miles from home I needed someone else to call besides emergency roadside assistance.
I took the chance and called her. Do you know she came, she waited with me and followed the tow and dropped me off to my hotel? She also knew of a reliable mechanic who wouldn’t try to take advantage and we were set.
The next day, she picked me up to check on the car, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t visit a local museum to see a particular exhibit. She called the director, told her she’d be dropping me off and arranged for the director to drop me off at the hotel when I was done with my visit.
We hung out the entire trip (when she wasn’t at work) and we shared a lot of deep things– things I never would have thought I’d share with someone I’d just met the day before.
Maybe that was even better; she didn’t have a history of me to judge me by or be able to say, “I told you so.” We were two kindred spirits with a lot in common and we talked and talked and laughed and laughed. It was refreshing and beautiful. We both often mentioned how wild and amazing and pleasant such an experience was and that it was truly meant to be for some reason.
It was what I like to call a “sisterfriend connection” and besides just laying out in the sun and listening to the crashing waves and having no schedule whatsoever, I needed to meet her. I was supposed to meet her and share all those things bottled up in me.
It was almost as magical as finding a romantic relationship on vacation, but way more fulfilling and way more honest.
I told her about part of the reason for my impromptu trip, all of the pain I was going through and how just physically and emotionally tired I was.
When we said good-bye, we hugged one another, crying for a good amount of time.
It was another moment that I knew for sure there was a God and he was listening.
To have the right people placed in your life when you need them most, even when they seem to be at first glance– just strangers passing along on this road, or in my case, a food critic asking me what I thought of the ox tails, is indeed a miracle.
Sometimes we have to hear from strangers what we can’t seem to grasp from the people in our everyday lives. The kindness they show to you is even more powerful because there really is nothing in it for them– the recipient could be an ungrateful jerk or their next best ally for years to come, or they could just be the angel you needed right in the nick of time, never to be heard from or seen again.
Maybe the memory of what that stranger was to you was the point.
Maybe that memory will stop you from making a bad decision or compel you to make a good one. It will compel you to open up to someone new or help someone you really didn’t have to.
Those moments in Myrtle Beach reminded me that life is so unpredictable and full of good surprises, just as much as it is filled with inconvenient, ugly and difficult circumstances.
I sent my friend a text today, wishing her a happy new year and that I am still touched by the power of our encounter. She texted me back, full of joy and offering me the same well wishes and said that she was just as touched by our experience too.