I once met a woman on my last night in New Orleans. I saw her asked I was walking down the lamp light street waiting for my cab back to my lodgings. She was sitting outside of a shop on Decatur, with a makeshift table of crates, some handmade jewelry, and a book in hand. She had the look of a woman who knew sorrow for far too long.
I went up to her and asked what she was reading and she showed me a book I had loved as a child. I said, “it’s always been one of my favorites, especially when I was young”. She told me “I wish I had this book when I was a kid, probably would have made better life choices. Now, these books just allow me to escape for a little while”. We continued to chat about books and the state of the world who was losing its love for literature. She told me books got her through her toughest times. We were kindred spirits in that respect, that books helped us cope with life in a world that has forgotten the wonder of simple things, like reading and enjoying coffee.
After a while, I looked down at her table of jewelry and read a paper sign, written in permanent marker, that said “HOMELESS BUT NOT LOOKING FOR A HANDOUT. Support local artists. Buy handicrafts”. Beneath, laid another sign on cardboard that said, “Most bracelets $5”.
I browsed and picked up a friendship bracelet and told her I would take it back to my grandmother. There wasn’t anything there that anyone else I knew would actually wear. Most of the jewelry was very hippy and “natural” in appearance, consisting of woven brown cord and small shiny beads that looked like little stars in hues blues, golds, and silvers.
I asked her how much for the bracelet, she told me $5. I pulled out my wallet and saw I had $25 left. I took out the $20 and handed it to her, deciding to save the $5 to buy coffee before my flight home in the AM. She looked at me, with those tired eyes and blond hair and said “thank you”. I told her it was my pleasure and that it so rare to find such good company to talk to about things like books. She closed her book and reached over the table and handed me another friendship bracelet, that was less adorned than the others and she said, “Take this one for yourself, it’s one I made for any males that wanted one”. I told her she didn’t have to give up her merchandise. She insisted and said, “No. I want to. Many people don’t engage people like me in conversation if they can help it. Take it. A gift to the young man with a kind heart and a beautiful mind”. I told her "thank you" and went my way, never to forget this intelligent woman, who wore her truth and her artistic talent as her banner. A woman, who could have written the very book she read, had life been a little different.
Despite all of the kind things she said, it was she who encouraged me. She who reminded me of the beauty in meeting strangers and remembering we are all connected in one way or another, whether that be by shared interests or bonds of family or friendship.
Have you ever made a meaningful connection with a stranger like this? Has your life ever been profoundly impacted by an individual or experience that you met/had only once? Let me know in the comments or on one of my social media accounts.