The sweet fruit of connecting with strangers

Apple by shlomile via DeviantArt

I’d had one of those mornings full of minor annoyances that, if left unchecked, can turn into a whirlwind of ohmygodIhatethisdayandeveryoneinit.  Those days happen to me a lot, and I could already tell I’d be in for a pisser.  But I dropped off my husband, threw a letter in the mail, checked out a library book, and headed to the farmer’s market for some last-minute groceries.

I breezed my way down the long ramp to the lower level to find my favourite lettuce vendor (yes, those exist) and discovered their table covered in apples, some varieties I’d never heard of.  Immediately, my brain switched into Honeycrisp Mode, my eyes sweeping the table like a radar.

My thought process went like this:  Yes!  They have them!  Damn!  I don’t have enough money!

I’d only brought $7 (everything in my change jar) to pick up a head of romaine for dinner and some fruit for lunches.  The king of apples runs about $3 a pound, putting it firmly out of my price range, so I plotted to return over the weekend and gorge myself.

Another customer slipped in before I could get the farmer’s attention, so I waited patiently.  I mistook him for an old man at first, standing there in his grandpa jacket, his wavy hair strikingly white, his figure a bit short and round.  But when he spoke, the voice was bright and vaguely British; when he turned, I saw a young man with a round face, 30? 35? with Grecian-sea-blue eyes.  Handsome bordering on pretty.  He asked the seller about the different varieties, passing up the Honeycrisps for Courtlands.

I just couldn’t let that stand.

“Have you tried a Honeycrisp before?” I asked, butting right into his conversation.  “If you haven’t, don’t miss out–they’re delicious.”

He turned and smiled, “Oh, yes, I have.  They’re very sweet, that honey taste.”  He must’ve seen how excited I was because he followed up with, “Are they your favourite?”

I laughed.  “Definitely!  I’d love to get some, but I’ve only got seven bucks, and I need lettuce.  Maybe Saturday.”  I smiled, amused that he’d read me so easily.

“Would you like to split a basket?” he offered, waving a hand over the piles of apples in front of him.

Would I?! I thought.  I could’ve kissed him on the mouth.

“Oh, yeah, great!  That’d be awesome, thank you!” I said.

He gestured to the farmer, pointing at the biggest box, and asked him to break it up so we could share.  Five bucks apiece for about seven apples each–a freaking bargain.

As we waited, he and I chatted about apple varieties, then I paid for my beautiful fruit babies and romaine, enthusiastically thanked the stranger again, and headed to my car with a huge grin on my face and a bounce in my step, feeling light, energized, and merry.

The only reason I’m even writing about this, as mundane as it seems, is because this kind of thing has been happening to me more and more.  And it’s awesome.

For most of my adult life, I’ve walked around trying to draw myself inward so I’d attract as little attention as possible.  The very idea of making smalltalk with a stranger in an elevator would make me break out in nervous sweats.  My introvert tendencies are never more in control than when I’m out and about.

But I don’t want to be like that anymore. I made a conscious choice to stretch my comfort zones (and to roll with it as best I can when they’re stretched for me). I’ve started smiling at strangers and looking them in the eye, talking louder, and chatting with people in public because I want to open myself, to take up the space in the world that I deserve.  And the more I do it, the better it feels; the better it feels, the more I do it.

Which is not to say I’m “over it” – I’m still an introvert. INFJ 4 Lyfe. But it’s a mark of how much I’ve grown that I could look Apple Dude in the eye, much less have a conversation or allow him to do me a favour.  Even in that moment, I was proud of myself for letting it happen.

The rush of connecting with a complete stranger in a positive, happy-making way is so unfamiliar to me as to be new, and each time I do it, I get all tingly.  Walking away from an encounter like this, I’m inevitably smiling hugely and feeling like all’s right with the world.  The power of touching someone else and getting such brilliant energy back just floors me.

As a sweet friend once told me, “It’s amazing how kind we can be to each other when we allow a little trust out.”

I originally published this post in 2011, and it was removed from the archives in 2014. It’s been refreshed and reshared here for your enjoyment.

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