One of the perks of living where I do is that I’m within a 15 minute drive from almost everything: parents, the Girlie’s school, groceries, Target, malls, restaurants, parks, ski trails, rivers, and even lakes. I love water, and luckily for me, there are many lakes in the city. Minnesota has the nickname “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, and it’s true. These gems are well maintained, even in the winter; we locals enjoy them all year round. I personally like to walk the paths around the lakes, but I also like paddle boarding or kayaking in the lakes, too.
Yesterday I was walking around Lake Calhoun. Calhoun is one of the larger city lakes, and the walking path is 3.1 miles; a perfect distance to go with contemplations. I usually like to walk without wearing headphones, but lately I’ve gotten hooked on listening to podcasts. There are so many to choose from! I especially like listening to the ones that highlight other people’s stories. My current favorites are This American Life and The Moth. When I’m walking and listening to an episode, I usually keep my eyes down, watching the path in front of me. I’m sure it’s a concentration thing.
Anyway, as I was walking along, I looked up to find a shortish, middle aged man coming toward me with his right arm in an outstretched thumbs-up position, and wearing a big friendly smile. His gaze actively sought mine, and we locked eyes. It was then that I read his bold red colored shirt. In big white capital letters it read “KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK”. I looked back into his eyes, and smiled back. Never dropping my gaze, nor his smile, the man lowered his arm, nodded his head, and walked past me. I turned around to watch him walk away, wondering if he would look back at me, too. He didn’t. He didn’t have to. On the back of his shirt, in the same big white capital letters I read “IT’S OK TO BE HAPPY”. I felt my smile get bigger, and a sense of happiness spread across my whole face and body.
I turned around and continued on my walk. What beautiful messages! Out of nowhere! I definitely needed both of those messages yesterday, and after reading them, I felt lighter somehow. My shoulders dropped, I took a few deep breaths, and then I wondered, what if I hadn’t looked up? I would have missed this man completely. Truly! I almost didn’t see a man in a bright red shirt with large white letters, walking toward me with an outstretched arm and a seeking gaze. Whoa. That’s a little scary. While I enjoy listening to different podcasts as I go along, I never thought about what I might be missing while I’m concentrating on the stories, nor how deep my level of unawareness can get. I’ll be rethinking my exercise routines going forward.
Thank you Universe. Messages sent and received.
I remember a few years back there was a person (I’ll call him Phil) spotlighted in the paper as doing a social psych sort of experiment. Phil chose to set up a table along Calhoun’s walking path. At the table were two chairs next to each other, and a sign that read “Free Conversation” (I might have the details a little off, but that was the gist of the story). Phil wondered who might choose to stop and talk, and what kind of conversations he would have. Surprisingly, a fair number of people did choose to engage him in conversation, with topics that were all over the place. Phil liked the interactions so much that he planned on offering conversations again in the future, outside of the experiment. Just for the fun of it.
How cool was that? First of all, to have the spunk to set up such a scenario, but second of all, to go through with it and engage anyone who chose to sit down? And how about the people who came to the table? What brought them? Bravery? Curiosity? Loneliness? Fascinating. I wish I would have seen this happening in real time. I’m not sure if I could have started a conversation with this person, but I’d like to think so. I’m not always all that brave, but I am definitely always curious.
MESSAGE OF THE DAY: Look up. Not everything that distracts you is bad. I hope to see that man around Lake Calhoun again. I’d like to say thank you.