Funny How We Meet People: Saturday Reunion NYC
“Where are you headed?” A middle aged gentleman asked me, obviously in a hurry, and obviously part of the Teachers College Saturday Reunion.
“Ummm…Union Theological Seminary.” I responded.
“Something Memorial Chapel…a name…Michael or something.” He was trying in his stress to recall the exact name.
“Yeah. I think it’s James Chapel.” I was glad to walk with someone as I was trying to navigate this unfamiliar campus with a map and a bad sense of direction.
“Yes, that’s it. What session are you going to?” He asked.
“Conferring with Writers. Carl…”
“Yes. That’s the one.” I confirmed.
“Oh, that’s me.” We both chuckled. I figured he’d run ahead since he was the presenter but he seemed to have a notion that I would get us to the right building. So, when I realized he was keeping my pace, I introduced myself.
“I’m Catherine. Good to meet you.” I knew only that he’s done some great work and authored books, but that’s the extent of it. So, I asked a few get-to-know-you questions, and he was good natured enough to go with it despite the rush we were in.
We made it to the seminary and asked a security guard for more directions. We were instructed to go through the doors in front of us, through the courtyard, up another set of steps, and make a left into the the room where Carl would present.
It was during the two minute walk through the courtyard that we realized we were both raised in Long Island. That led to the exchange about which celebrities went to our respective high schools — the Baldwin brothers, Jerry Seinfeld, and Mariah Carey. He spoke briefly of his fondness for his Sunfish which he still sails out of a beach not far from where my father spent his last days in a nursing home. His parents are gone now — the last piece of life he shared with a sad sigh before entering the presentation room.
“Nice talking with you.” I said. And that was it. I met Carl today, writer, presenter, fellow Long Islander.
You see, the point of telling you this story is not to tell you I met someone important in the educational world today. But rather, I was reminded by that brief exchange of two important life truths.
One, when a teacher (or or presenter for that matter) let’s us in on their humanness to the degree that we know they are human like us, we listen more intently to what they say and want to teach us. This was true for me today.
Secondly, when we connect with others in this life, even when the encounters are brief and the exchanges all about “So, where are you from?” kinds of conversations, they’re still really important because it’s in those conversations we find people, like Carl, who come from the same place and era. They are, in a strange way, witnesses to our story and us to theirs. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
Just as significant as meeting Carl today was meeting so many wonderful, friendly teachers, like Michele, who I’ve gotten to know and with whom I’m sitting as we’re heading back to Pennsylvania from New York.
In the end, when it’s all said and done, I think one of life’s greatest treasures will have been that we’ve taken time to make eye contact, ask questions, and listen to each other’s stories.
Tomorrow, think about opening the treasure chest of conversation with someone you either know well or maybe not at all. Chances are, you’ll be richer for it.