Be a Better Stranger

He was a who, not a what, just like me.

Last night I was at the grocery store and an elderly man dropped a box of orange juice.  As I reached down to help him, he commented how clumsy he was these days.  I could tell he was a veteran.  I have a special place in my heart for veterans.  I told him I was clumsy all the time.  I commented that all the orange juices looked the same and I had to make sure I wasn’t getting one with pulp because Boo doesn’t like pulp, and he said something about not having pulp is not getting the bang for your buck.  I smiled at him and he told me that my smile belonged in the Smithsonian and I told him he made my day. He was slow as he made his way around the store.  I was slower.   In the frozen aisle I told him I was finally going to pull ahead of him.  At the produce area he said we needed to stop running into each other like this. He caught up to me again in the dairy section.  We both stood in front of the dairy staring at all the selections.  Shoppers swarmed all around us in a hurry.  I told him it was all too confusing and I didn’t know what half the stuff was.  He said he was a no frills kind of guy.  I told him I was a no frills kind of girl.  He said he knew I was.  As I said goodbye he said it was so nice meeting you and I told him it was extra nice meeting him.  I noticed his eyes were especially sparkly.  I wondered how many times he’s been passed by in a hurry as if invisible.  This holiday season my focus is on being slow and present, and maybe if I’m just slow enough I’ll run into the war veteran again.

Be a better stranger quote: We sometimes encounter people even perfect strangers....

The quote above is from the book Life is a Verb by Patti Digh.  I love this:

You never know when you might be the highlight in a trip, a needed word, a special kindness.  You never know when you might find the friend you’ve needed, or the learning that changes everything for you […] this was a real person with a name and a history and stories that make him laugh and cry. He was a who, not a what, just like me. Patti Digh, Life is a Verb

Mr. Veteran was the highlight of my grocery trip.
I like people with no frills.
Cut straight to the real and raw.

He was a who, not a what, just like me.

P.S. I think I should start buying orange juice with pulp.


  1. says

    Working in retail like I do, I enjoy making conversation. My boss always says to engage the customer, not become engaged to them ( his sense of humor – gotta love him ) … but sometimes you just can’t help it. I find the most delight in stopping to chat with the elderly. They have the best stories and best sense of humor. The majority of my smiles and laughter throughout my day come from just saying hello, having a sincere comment/compliment and a whole new world can open up. We have our regulars that just come to my department to say hello and share a little tidbit of their day with me. I love it.

  2. kristin says

    Awesome post – thanks for sharing your experience.
    Last week, while on my way to daycare drop off, a lady cut me off for the coffee drive thru. Then she held up the line while chatting with the employees. When I finally got up to order, they said she had used her full punch card to buy MY coffee…… and once again, I”m constantly being humbled. And slowing down, this month (for starters)…

  3. Dawn says

    Everyone has a story and I, too, enjoy learning them.

    Shortly after my FIL passed away, my MIL was assisted to her car with her groceries. When they got to the car, the bagger commented that my MIL looked so sad and asked if she could give her a hug. A total stranger brightened my MIL’s day just a little.

  4. Joy T. says

    What a beautiful story to share! I love it when I have a fun encounter with a ‘stranger’. We’re all special individuals with a purpose in life, so the term stranger seems so distant to me when it needn’t be (well except in the safety of our children, etc.).

  5. says

    Oh my goodness, that brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for noticing him and talking to him. We live in such a hurry-hurry world and we need to be more like this. Thanks for sharing this story to remind us.

  6. Trisha Ashley says

    Pulp rocks, and your no frills cut to the chase kind of attitude is what keeps us all coming back for more! Amen to you for taking time to talk to this man!

  7. Kat says

    I am convicted almost every time I read your posts (even crafty ones, since they remind me to use my creativity and stop wasting time on stupid things like iphone games & tv). I quit blogging awhile ago for a lot of reasons, one of which was that I felt like I wasn’t being a blessing to others with my writing. You are a blessing to others with your writing, and your words are kind, thought-provoking, challenging, encouraging, motivating, and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      thank you Kat….and everyone else! I read each and every comment. You motivate me to keep writing especially when I question why I am moved to write. All of these comments are blessings to me as well.

  8. Jane says

    You make the world a better place, and make me determined to be better, too. Love, love this post.

  9. jan says

    This made me tear up,I think of my own elderly parents (who are now decesed)
    and only hope people would be that kind to my parents when they were alive.
    Thank you for your kindness

  10. says

    Love, Love, Love. I’m sure the elderly man went home and wrote in his journal too:)
    Thanks for sharing. I am too striving to be a better stranger.

  11. Mary says

    you made me stop and really think about all the strangers in our lives and how that chance encounter could be what they or I need for the day. Thank you for this post – You Made My Heart Smile !!!

  12. sharon says

    Great post! :-) and my kids will tell you that when they were little and wanted o.j. Without the pulp i would always say “no cuz pulp makes you poop”. way tmi but know you like little facts like that. Lol

  13. says

    Sometimes we just need to slow down and open our eyes to see people around us. A stranger is only a friend you haven’t met yet. Who knows, you might be just what that person needs on that day!

  14. Helen says

    What a wonderful story. I just found your blog…..I KNOW…but I am hooked and will share the blessing.

  15. Mary L says

    This is a great story and we all need to take time to speak someone. You never know what impact you will have on that persons day.
    I enjoy reading your posts. I live in Charlotte, NC.

  16. Kim says

    OMG. Thank you so much for destroying my eye makeup, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! What a sweet story! What kindness and generosity. What a great reminder of what a tiny bit of kindness can mean. Thank you for reminding me that it only takes a minute…a little notice…a little bit of caring to make a difference. And it goes both ways for us all to win! :-)