In my room, on top of my dressing table you’ll find a red and green tin. It’s filled with boarding passes of domestic flights I’ve taken during the last few years. Each piece of paper represents a different day and journey, and more importantly, a different stranger and their story.
I have fond memories of my fellow flyers.
Once I sat next to a Boertjie who married a Russian catalogue bride. Being a peculiar looking person, he discovered that money paved the way to love and it’s been the heartbeat of his marriage ever since. His chosen wife caters to his every need, and he ensures that she’s a kept woman, warm and safe in sunny SA. Who cares if she doesn’t really speak English?
Then there was the guy who hurt his leg in an accident as a child, who has been struggling through life ever since. Not only limping physically but also handicapped emotionally as a result of repeatedly asking why, without arriving at any satisfactory answers.
Another time a businessman and I switched iPods and explored each other’s music libraries for the duration of the flight without speaking more than a single word: “swop?”
And then there’s James, who flew to Cape Town for the first time that day. Desperate to see the ocean after living in Johannesburg for twenty five years. Sadly the itinerary of his business trip didn’t make provision for a beach trip, but he so hoped that something would change to make his dream come true.
It reads like fiction, but it’s not. You wouldn’t think that people would open up to a stranger, or that such interesting characters would be so common. But they are. People are desperate to be heard, we’re just not taking time to listen anymore.
When I strike up conversations with strangers they tend to be secretive, and even suspicious at first. However, I’ve discovered that if I keep on going, genuinely asking and genuinely listening, sooner or later they’ll volunteer information and reveal emotions that they never would have imagined admitting to a stranger.
People are truly fascinating. It’s just that we’re not fascinated enough with strangers, and who they might be, to push past the initial awkwardness of getting to know them and discover their stories. If you start off with the intention to really listen, you’ll be surprised at the impact of your words when you do decide to speak.
God created the entire universe through speaking it into being, but I have a suspicion that it might just be our moments of silence that will reveal the most fascinating, breathtaking landscapes of our earth-bound lives.