In Search of Our Soul Tribe

Photo Soul Tribe

In high school, we were the mighty 13. Our claim to fame were the dance numbers we would create. “West Side Story’s” “Gee, Officer Krupke” won us first prize at the school talent show. I remember, fondly, one rainy Saturday afternoon, when all 12 gathered in my basement to help me prepare oak tag signs for my bid for class President and then returned the next week to console me when I wasn’t elected.

Back then, my best friend and I decided to create code names using our initials to ward off any security breaches as we passed notes back and forth; hers was Ellen (L.N.), mine was Elsie (L.C.). When we needed to see each other to share the ups and downs of teenage girlhood, we would call each other and say “…Meet S.S…,” then both run to our secret spot and find the other sitting in the branches of the old gnarled tree we both always loved.

How did we all lose touch? Sometimes I wonder why all those experiences and memories didn’t do a better job of cementing us together. I admire those people that have kept up with everyone that has ever touched their lives. I wish I was one of them, but then I am reminded that it does take two to tango. While the idealist in me hates to let people go, the logical side says three strikes, you’re out; the gentler side of that meaning is that after three times, the pattern will deliver its own message.

It is said that you become the company you keep and in the broader sense I can see that. Socializing with vibrant, positive thinkers, will most likely, ignite those passions within you. But, let’s not forget about the yin and yang; contrasting personalities can fortify and compliment who we are and take us places we would never have dreamed of going alone. A symbiotic relationship packs the one-two punch of inspiration plus confidence and reminds us that there is strength in numbers.

Acquaintance, friend, pal, soul mate; at any given time in our lives, I see now that we tend to acquire just what we need. Did you ever meet someone by chance and just know that they were meant to be a part of your life? That spark that instantaneous bond can transform a stranger into a kindred spirit. Were you ever surprised that a rekindled friendship would start back up right where it left off without missing a beat?

Be open to those around you; you never know who fate might link you to. Be receptive and get to know people different from yourself. Be bold (even if it means going it alone) and step into new experiences. Be the one who can say to themselves “…I’ve made the most of every opportunity that came my way…” Somewhere between want and need, the perfect connections will arise.

All those years ago, I would never have imagined that, in time, those strong bonds of friendship would all but vanish. Maybe they were making way for new relationships that needed to be cultivated, new adventures that would lead to chance encounters. Maybe it was the universe’s way of reminding me that as one door closes, another opens.

Being a part of a community, something bigger than ourselves, and delighting in that camaraderie is what it’s all about. Those special relationships bring to mind a prayer that St. Francis of Assisi wrote over 700 years ago when he reminds us “…to be understood as to understand, to be consoled as to console, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that we receive…”

We’re never sure how all the pieces fit together; how people from different walks of life, whom we meet at different times and places just seem to complete our puzzle. It’s that strong esprit de corps that fortifies us, motivates us to continue our journey and keeps us on the lookout for new members of our soul tribe.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why a Stranger Isn’t Strange to Me

Photo Strangers

First, we acknowledge each other as we pass by each day. Then, we smile and wish each other a good day. Next, we share a few comments about the weather, finally introduce ourselves and begin to make small talk. This is my how my relationships started with my walking friends; strangers that I’ve met while walking the same route each day.

First, there was the young woman who left the corporate world to become a dog walker (the same mother that left the room crying when she announced her career change, now introduces her as her successful entrepreneur daughter). It was the colorful set of keys hanging from her belt that sparked our initial conversation. Because she was out in all kinds of weather, she was tuned in to the National Weather Advisory 24/7 and became my personal weather forecaster.

Then, there was the striking, older couple who would take their morning constitutional; she, always wearing a stylish hat and he, looking like Santa Claus and sporting a carved cane (only for effect, his wife would say). After running into them at a couple of charity events throughout the city (including Big A’s* grammar school), I would instinctively look for a lovely hat whenever I’d enter a venue. I’d never know when they would pop into my life next, surprised to see him on a local TV station interview (turns out he was a famous Chicago area writer) or as Mr. Wiz’s* customer at the Mercedes-Benz dealership.

Finally, the gentleman that would be up so early walking his dog was always so cheery that I’d find myself smiling and continuing on my route with a newfound spring in my step. One of his daughters was the same age as Big A, so we started comparing notes and swapping Millennial one liners. A chance meeting in our neighborhood with our spouses has since led to a wonderful friendship.

A stranger is just a person that you haven’t gotten to know yet; take Miss Rye Bread. Once, when Big A was a little boy, we were walking back from the grocery store and decided to stop at Woolworth’s. One of the cashiers, a young Filipino woman who seemed a bit stern, noticed our loaded cart and cheerfully said “…Why don’t you leave your cart here. Don’t worry, I’ll watch your rye bread…,” noticing the loaf balanced at the top. For years, we would say hello to Miss Rye Bread on the street, visit her in whatever area store she was working in and never failed to surprise her when we’d sing Happy Birthday to her on her special day.

Nowadays, it’s not that strange to interact with strangers. Thanks to the internet, we date them, room with them, vacation in their homes, stay in their spare bedrooms or on their sofas, rent their cars and pay them to host us for dinner, along with other guests (who are also strangers).

As a child, I remember being told never to get into a car with a stranger. Then, Uber came along and I became totally confused. Now, Uber is currently developing new technology whereby cars will drive themselves. That means that when you’re picked up, there won’t even be a stranger in the car with you. Now, that’s strange.

As a self-taught expert in “strangerology,” I have found that it’s the age of the passerby and not the size of the city that dictates the eye contact level. The younger the passerby, the more likelihood that they will be tuning out the world around them, either by wearing ear phones or by walking, head down, transfixed by some form of social media (the latter technique should not be attempted by amateurs).

Attempt this next exercise at your own risk. There’s no chance for a repeat relationship. It’s just the flash of a human connection, a one-time opportunity for a relationship, the gift of a personal link from one to another. Try it; smile at a stranger as you pass them by and see their countenance change as if by magic. It will change their day and it will make yours!

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.