The best way to write your own story is to ask others about theirs
Three years ago, on the last leg of the “Camino de Santiago,” a 900km trek across northern Spain, my dad came across a Norwegian woman and a Dutch man, both of whom were in their late 80’s.
Curious as to what had brought the elderly couple to Spain, my dad grabbed an open seat beside them at the bar and said hello.
It turns out, four years earlier, the two, who did not know each other at the time, were walking the “Camino” alone, as a way of coming to grips with the recent passing of their late partners.
And one day, their paths briefly crossed.
It was nothing more than your standard quick encounter with a stranger. Not even, because they did not even exchange names. However, something about the man fascinated the woman.
Months later, back in Norway, time and time again, the woman would catch herself daydreaming about this mystery man.
That is until one day she got sick of only seeing his face when she closed her eyes and decided to do something about it so she could see his face when she opened them.
Knowing nothing more than the man was Dutch, she sat down and wrote the offices of the “Camino” a letter — requesting any information they had in regards to any Dutch men who finished the walk the previous September.
A few days later, to her surprise, and evidently loose regulations, she received a reply — and in the message were the names of four men.
Later that day she took the four names and did the only thing she could think of, she sat down and wrote out four identical Christmas cards. Then went along with her day with her heart pumping and fingers crossed.
A few days later, she walked out to her mailbox, and saw a name staring back at her.
She had found her mystery man — and the two have been together ever since.
Take a second and think about that.
A woman in her 80’s.
She briefly meets a man.
She cannot stop thinking about him.
She decides to put herself out into the world by writing four letters.
One day she gets one in return.
And a few years later, they were seen walking together as a couple, and not just the shadows of what could have been.
When I first heard this story my imagination ran wild envisioning the woman sitting down alone as she set out to write four Christmas cards. And envisioning the look on her face when she opened her mail a few days later and saw his name staring back at her.
But once my mind slowed, I sat back and thought about the whole story.
And as I travelled back, I envisioned someone else and I saw a 73-year old American guy walking alone in a foreign country and stopping to talk to a couple that just simply intrigued him.
How many times do we let the opportunities to talk to people that interest us pass us by?
How many times do we throw caution to the wind and allow our curiosity to guide us?
How many times do we put deadlines, goals, and commitments in front of us instead of just living in the moment and talking to someone who looks like they have a story to share?
Having fought in Vietnam. Having survived cancer. Having endured a 50 year career that took him all over the world during some of histories most trying times, it is in that moment, envisioning my dad sitting down to talk to an elderly couple, simply because he was intrigued, that makes me the most proud to be his son.
It is so easy to get caught up in trying to write our own story, we forget that being interested in hearing the stories of others ultimately determines how well we write our own.
That woman could be anyone.
The woman sitting across from you as you read this on the train.
The woman you see everyday struggling to carry her groceries into your apartment building.
Instead of just sitting there, allowing the moment to pass, take a page out of my dad’s book and say hello, you never know where the story will take you.