Sometimes in life we encounter people in the everyday and don’t know a thing about them. I met one of those people I had known for a decade and never known at all.
How often has it been that you pass someone in work or in town, perhaps in the grocery store or the bank and you nod and smile, even exchange pleasantries but no more. This was one of those people. We often crossed paths with this couple. They live in our village, and once a few years ago we even found ourselves at drinks or nibbles at someone’s house.
Pleasantries and conversation are two very different things.
I wonder where the difference begins. This time it was because of a mutual interest. My daughter is an artist. She is wonderful and strong and I love her. As with all my children, I am always looking out for ways to help them to learn more in their chosen discipline. They all pursue things different to my own specialisms and I know to look outward – It is not I who will help them, but through connecting to others.
Someone mentioned that a man in the village was also an artist and the next time we passed one another, I spoke up, saying my daughter is an artist, and showed him an image of one of her drawings on my phone. He said we should come visit; he’d like to meet her. Wonderful!
We were invited for a mid-morning cup of…elevensies (it’s an English thing) and we stepped into the most wonderful celebration of life, learning, colour and connection. Our host, an artist of many years, introduced himself and his wife, and all the while smiled with a sparkle. He is one of these people who don’t need to ask if things spark joy, that joy was sparking right out of his eyes.
He turned to my daughter and said, ‘Well, I’m really interested in what you think because I think I can learn from you. I know I can.’
My heart wells up to recall that. As someone of a younger generation, it is not usual to be revered – even before you are known. He had seen none of my daughter’s work, but that single image I’d shown on my phone, had never met her before, and didn’t know a thing about her. Such welcome and acceptance. This is the stuff learning is made of. This is the seed of connection: a willingness to engage, share, learn, exchange stories and understandings, and the invitation to challenge and question.
At one point he said something that was so wonderful I asked if I could record it in his voice:
Later we found the same words hanging on the ceiling of his studio.
During the course of the morning, his wife, who claimed no talent of her own, asked the most poignant question of all. (let’s make it clear the rest of us quickly dismissed any claim of ‘no talent’ – everyone has something that they do or see or share that is of value to others. Just because someone doesn’t paint or make music or create some outwardly visible thing does not mean there is no talent. I value the person who can patiently listen. I value the person who can maintain tenderness while others struggle with the weight of the world. Oh there are many talents.) She told a story of being at a fancy dinner and being seated between a mathematician and a physicist, and being asked ‘what is your passion?’ and then she turned to me and asked, ‘what would you say to that question?’
Her husband said, ‘I suppose you might say it’s music?’
and I said, ‘No. For me it’s connection with people: Real connection. Music is a medium and sometimes that’s how I can do it, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s about connection; connecting with people is my passion.’
We talked about many things, and even came back another day to talk some more, and both times my daughter and I went away feeling so much more full than when we came. Thank you Nick and Anne. Sincerely thank you.
And for anyone reading this. I hope you get a small sense of the wonderful joy that connection can bring, and maybe you will be inspired to do more than wave and nod at that person in passing. There are so many wonderful people in this world.