After making the decision to leave the noisy social media world in my rearview (yes, completely DELETING all my accounts, not merely deactivating for a break), I decided it was time to venture out into the 3-D world to make honest to goodness, in real life connections.
While I’m not a particularly shy gal by any means, I realized that sitting next to a random person at a coffee shop and launching into spontaneous conversation isn’t something I felt confident in pulling off. Also, as an introvert myself, I know full well that this sort of abrupt interruption won’t always be especially welcomed.
So, I decided to invite people to come to me instead.
I’ve begun a practice of ordering a green tea latte (with almond milk, natch), settling in at a cafe table made for two, and taping a simple sign off the side of said table.
This little sign, that took me all of about 10 seconds to create, has put me on the receiving end of numerous photos, smiles, and passers-by saying to companions (and sometimes directly to me), “Oh, I wish I could do something like that!” Then, there have been the brave strangers who, by the time they depart the coffee shop, can no longer be called strangers.
The first time I put up the proverbial pop-up poetry shingle, an adorably shy 20-something named Galen took me up on my offer to pen him a piece. He took the seat across from me and we chatted about who he is; allowing me to get a feel of how he walks through his days. About 15 minutes later, I presented an original work just for him.
As a writer, but more so simply as a fellow human being, to see this person I’d just met light up as he read the words he inspired, I was filled with a happiness that made my heart nearly burst. His smile in that moment was everything.
Unexpectedly, before leaving, he came back to my table and asked, “Do you mind if I read you something?”
“Of course I don’t mind,” I responded surprised and with a smile.
He spent the next minute or so reading me a poem he wrote in response, as a thank you, to the one I’d written him. And just like that, my heart swelled with happiness once again.
Two people who didn’t know the other even existed just hours prior, were no longer strangers. And what’s more, we gifted the other with our creativity in a very vulnerable way. Not a bad way to spend an hour, eh?
Another evening at a completely different cafe, there was David, his daughter, and their insanely cute puppy. A poet himself, David graced me with a reading of his latest piece. His young daughter, who I learned was a dancer, shared lively stories about her cats (more, please). And their dog, well, I never turn down affection from a floppy-eared canine with puppacino breath.
These interactions, though brief, were genuine exchanges that filled me up in a way I didn’t even know my soul needed. In a way that scrolling through social media feeds could never create.
So, if you see me at a cafe in your neighborhood, feel free to pull up a chair and tell me a little about yourself. I’ll pen you a poem. We will both be reminded that in real life connections can pop up just about anywhere if we are brave enough to create them.