Friday, April 29, 2011

Talking to Strangers

Never talk to strangers we're told. If, while you're out, on foot, and a stranger stops his or her "vehicle" and asks you to come closer, don't! I'm, of course, no longer a child, though child-size. In northern New England, where I visited last week, I went out on the unexpectedly warm morning the day before Easter and walked down a dirt road, mountains in the distance, water rushing in the ditches. Small daisy-like yellow wildflowers--not sure what they were--had opened: all flower, no leaf. (Camera broken so no photo.) Happily I poked along--literally: I had picked up a walking stick. Down the steep dirt road I went and, when the road petered out, turned back, making my way to the paved road.

Though there wasn't much traffic I walked facing oncoming cars and made sure my long red scarf was visible. On the side of the road I picked up a discarded pale purple shopping bag in good condition. I'll use this, I thought, stick in one hand, empty holiday bag in the other. A voice called, 'Isn't it a beautiful morning!' Startled I looked to my right and saw a woman who had stopped her SUV in the middle of the road. Her large, round, bright face came at me from the driver-side window. A girl, most likely her daughter, sat in the passenger's seat, her head down.

'Yes,' I answered. 'Beautiful.'

'Are you going to church?' she asked.

'No,' I said in a perfectly even voice.

'I have something for you,' she said. Her smile was sunny and intense.

Curious, I went closer. She held out a pen and a card encased in plastic. Her serious daughter never looked up. The driver's eyes lit up: big, round, blue. I took the pen.

The woman waved and drove off. I held the pen and read the message in shades of blue. "Welcome Friend!" Welcome printed five times in differently sized fonts. At the bottom of the card: "We're blessed because you're here." On the reverse side were verses from the New Testament, mostly from the Book of John, and sayings: "God loves you!" followed by "We all feel the terrible effects of sin in our lives." I looked at the lovely pale blue mountains in the distance. A woodpecker tapped, tapped again. Wandering again I walked on, the violet bag on my arm.

The blue pen on the kitchen counter in South Beach where I'm typing is still sealed in plastic. Through the plastic I can make out the fine print circling the bottom of the pen: John 14:6. The verse appears in full on the card: "Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'" I don't break the seal.


  1. What a story, Mim. I found it haunting and strangely frightening. I can imagine myself in such circumstances, A gift that feels troublesome, because it seems alien. You did not ask for it.

    The seal unbroken suggests to me that this gift might go the way of so many things that you do not ask for, you might not want even and therefore you cannot use. As a reader I'm left with so many questions but I'm happy to have them unanswered, rather like the unopened 'gift'.

    The gift becomes a loaded question mark. Thank you.

  2. Elizabeth: Thank you for responding so fully. I forgot to mention that the proselytizing woman blessed me as she drove off. When I think about it all now I smile. Wry, isn't it? There I was, as far as the eye could see, the only person on foot, a small poet, a secular Jew, and a fervent believer spotted me. Her rapturous expression made me narrow my eyes and think.

  3. Whatever one's faith, or lack thereof, this single act of connecting with a stranger in such an enigmatic manner, does indeed give one pause.

    Here's another 'pen' story: after my first husband passed away, I was with my son in a camera repair shop -- he was taking a photography class and I'd given him his dad's classic 35mm Canon. The shop owner was a bit in awe of this old camera -- "you've got a real gem here", he said. Just then I glanced down at the counter, and there was a pen with my husband's name printed on the side, from a realtor with the same name. I showed it to my son, who beamed up at me with the same twinkle I often saw in his father's eyes.

    Not long after that, I received some junk mail from the same realtor, with several of these pens tucked inside.

    What to say of this? It's more than synchronicity, and I don't believe it's random. The universe speaks to us in expected ways, and when we are listening, there is wisdom in abundance.

  4. T. Clear: You and your son saw, heard, read, and were delighted and touched. Did you write with those pens?

  5. if there's a moral here, it's a hard call, isnt it? your story reminds me of what happened to Stephen King, here in Maine, taking a quiet walk along the side of a country road. a car or pick-up truck comes around the bend or over the rise, and you are either shattered, as King literally was, or maybe blessed, as you, arguably, were...
    out of the blue.

    safe walking, dear Mim!

    ha: the yolks on me: my word verification? grace

  6. What a unique moment. Thank you for sharing. Impressed.

    Please have a good Tuesday.

  7. There's a fresh breeze blowing this morning. I take it for grace, Susan.

    R.K.--Just plain writing. Yours is the stunner.

    Robert in Athens: Are you posting pictures of reflections today? I'll go to your blog to find out.

    Be well, all.

  8. This is a Hitchcock story somehow, full of suspense, and it sounds kind of weird at the same time.
    You gave a perfect impression of the moment, it's almost like I witnessed it myself.

    Talking to strangers is quite a thing, I know that, and mostly it is broadening the view, the mind, the thoughts...whatever, in either way.

    Well now, after reading "the trailer", I'd like to read the whole book.

  9. Dear Smilla in Cologne--Yes, there was something weird. Thank you for your kind words.

    Your blog, anders-anziehen, intrigues me. I like to follow you as you take pictures of strangers whose permission you ask and whose words you quote.