“Hey, you’re probably gonna get a ticket,” I said to the older gentleman sitting in the fire zone outside of Starbucks.
“It’s okay,” he replied with a cursory glance at the sign. “My middle name is, ‘Fire’.”
“Yeah, right,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“My middle name is, “Ignatius,” he calmly explained, “which in Latin means. . .”
“Ignite,” I hastily said, showing off my paltry command of the language.
“Exactly,” he said, somewhat pleased.
“Well, my name means ‘light’ in Greek,” I continued. “So if I stand next to you any longer, I will definitely ‘light your fire.’
Mistake. A few minutes later, he followed me into Starbucks where I was waiting in line. He leaned into my ear and whispered, “What would you say if I told you I could take 27 years off your life? That is the distance it takes to cross the Milky Way.”
“Well, I’d say you’re too late. I’ve already crossed it. Twice. But thanks for trying.”
He just smiled, and returned to his seat by the “No Parking,” zone.
Something about him intrigued me, so on my way out, I stopped to talk to him again. Turns out he taught philosophy and metaphysics 40 years ago, “before it was so scientific,” he sighed. “It was a time when people were encouraged to think and dream and imagine. . .now they just ‘Google.'”
As I left, he gave me the biggest smile and said that I must, “always seek out the sun, because it is vertical and grounds you.”
I promised him that I would. So I will.
Here’s the thing. You MUST talk to strangers—particularly OLD ones. You just never know what’s on their minds. No matter how weird or far out they may seem, embrace them. Include them. They need to be heard and you need to hear them.