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This must be the place: No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language and knowledge

When I was a kid, my parents would talk to anybody. Literally anybody. Though my little sister was somewhat embarrassed by it, I was completely fascinated. 

Thus, that even as a youngster, I’d randomly strike up a chat with a complete stranger, whether in a diner at breakfast with my father or on some adventure with my mother. 

And I still am that way. I’m a honed antenna, this force of energy, a continually broadcasted frequency of camaraderie always in search of a receiver to open up the channels of communication with. 

With that, there’s one key rule that I live by every single day: start (at least) one conversation each day with a stranger. It doesn’t matter if it’s waiting in line, sitting in a park, sipping a beer at a bar or just somebody behind the counter at some business — one conversation. 

Start the daily practice yourself and you’ll be surprised at what you learn not only about what lies within you, but also within others around you. Open up and explore the universe sitting at your fingertips.

Nobody who has ever had a life worth living was an island unto themselves. What is a just and bountiful life, but to spend it interacting with other souls of joyous and harmonious vibration? Heck, Paul McCartney said it best in The Beatles song “The End” when he sang, “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”

And one must realize that most (if not all) folks will engage and be off into some deep conversation with you in mere moments because you gave them the most important thing in life — the time of day. In a modern era of social media and instant digital gratification, face-to-face conversation is a lost art, sadly. 

So, let’s change that. Bring back friendly banter. Bring back peaceful debate, introspective thought, critical thinking, the sharing of ideas and experiences between two people or a group. If anything, you’d be surprised how far just “How are you doing today?” can go.

Case in point: I went for a solo meal on Sunday evening at Curate, a scrumptious Spanish tapas restaurant in downtown Asheville. Iconic spot. Makes every worldwide list for “Best of” and so on. 

I like eating alone, especially if it’s with a good book or just the opportunity to spark a conversation with someone next to me. So, amid the organized chaos of a popular restaurant during the dinner rush, I was seated on the far end of the bar counter. 

It was a packed house. Dishes of savory food slung in every direction. Endless glasses of wine poured. Within my vicinity on that end of the bar counter was an older gentleman (also by himself) and a couple. 

Seeing an opportunity to maybe make a new acquaintance, I began talking to the older gentleman, sparked by him gazing over the huge menu. “The butternut squash soup was great, so was the shrimp and garlic bowl,” I suggested. 

We began to chat. He was from Washington State, way up on the Canadian Border. Retired firefighter, age 57. Currently driving solo around America (first time in Asheville), he was just taking it all in, immersing himself in spots he might want to call home someday. 

Our banter soon spilled over into the couple. They’re in their late 40s from Fort Worth, Texas. They come to Asheville a couple times a year. Love it here. The husband runs a nonprofit that goes around teaching the youth of Texas about classic and ancient literature, with trips to Europe to see and live the words first-hand. The couple met as teenagers in Fort Worth, happily married 27 years. 

The four of us ended up in a genuinely meaningful conversation about life, love, travel, and what it all means in the grand scheme of things. We shared tales of our separate pasts, of happiness and sadness.

The firefighter spoke of being one of those emergency responders who drove to Ground Zero (from Washington State) to help clean up debris and gather the remains of those perished in 9/11. You could see the sadness in his eyes as we listened intently. He then told us other serendipitous moments he had come across on this recent trek, interactions that filled his heart with that love and compassion we all seek.

The couple spoke of their two kids, one a brush pilot in Alaska, the other moving to Germany to start a new life. They told stories of running around the country and overseas as a young family, and how “life has always been experiences and moments shared with loved ones, never about material wealth or status.” 

We dove deep into an ocean of thought, only to resurface with new friendships. The conversation was over an hour long, the wine poured with gusto. Eventually, it was time to move on. We said goodbyes and exchanged emails. Such is life, eh? 

The absurdity and splendor of it all, and all started with: “The butternut squash soup was great, so was the shrimp and garlic bowl.”

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

 

Hot picks

1 Roots/jam group The Get Right Band will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, in The Gem downstairs taproom at Boojum Brewing in Waynesville.

2 The Petra Ballet Company will kickoff the holiday season at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin.

3 ”Kids at HART,” the youth drama group at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre (HART), will present “Seussical the musical Jr.” at 2 p.m. Nov. 23-24 at the theatre in Waynesville.

4 The 10th annual Handmade Holiday Sale will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, in the Bardo Arts Center at Western Carolina University.

5 The 32th annual “Hard Candy Christmas” arts and crafts show will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 29-30 inside the Ramsey Center at Western Carolina University.

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