The other day in the middle of coffee with a girlfriend we were interrupted by a man I have never met. He was so nervous that his voice was shaking but obviously he really cared about what he had to say so I listened as he powered through.
It turned out that he has not only been reading this column since the beginning, he has been cutting it out of the paper and saving those clips in folders. Once he recognised me at the coffee shop he had to say hello so he walked over, introduced himself and told me all this despite the potential awkwardness.
There have been several moments in the writing of this column that I have thought of giving it up and doing other things. Some moments when I have felt ineffectual and thought that there are other ways to put my thoughts out into the world. And others when I have felt uninspired or unwilling to share the big lessons in my life and the very personal journey that has led to them.
This January has been one of those moments. For weeks now I have been wondering if I will continue with this and trying to figure out why. Is there a new direction to explore? Are there new insights to share? And the perpetual – how much of myself do I want to share in the process?
Meeting this man confirmed the value of my work that it matters greatly to him and that it has made a lasting impression in his life. As a columnist, these things top the list of what I have ever wanted to achieve. I am especially grateful that he walked up to me and allowed himself to be vulnerable and say these things to me, in front of my friend no less.
We all have moments when we can make someone’s day or validate them for something that they do that we value. Your mother who sends you vegetables every other week. Your sister who never forgets birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Your friend who goes out of her way to mentor your children. Your brother who picks up your son and takes him for a haircut every Saturday.
Sure there is a lot of ugly stuff in the world… you only have to pick up one of the dailies and flip through page one to five. Tear-gassed children, 2,000 killed by Boko Haram, 12 dead in Paris… making those lists is quite easy. But we are also surrounded by kindnesses and generosity. We are also surrounded by the beauty of mankind and we need to acknowledge that if only so it shines brighter.
To the stranger in the coffee shop, thank you so much. I was deeply moved by your acknowledgment, your kindness to say those things and your generosity of spirit. And yes, let us have coffee.