Any one who knows me knows this: I talk to strangers, all the time. And here’s an example of why I do it.
I was walking through the South End this morning to teach my toddler yoga class. A Boston Police Officer was at a detail along the way. As is my habit, I smiled and said hello. He was friendly and asked what I was doing (I was carrying my usual load of mats, props, and toys, both arms full so it was a good question!) I told him I was on my way to teach a toddler yoga class. He did not know where the studio was so he walked with me to see it. On the way, I said, “Has anyone thanked you today for being a police officer and for all you do to keep us safe? Because I really appreciate it.”
As we reached the studio he smiled and said, “I appreciate what you said to me, thank you. And I am going to give it right back to you. Because of what you do – teaching kids to be calmer and think about each other, be better people – you are giving me less to do. And you help other adults who work with kids too—like school teachers. It’s a circle. A big circle. We all help each other. And what you do helps me. So I appreciate you.”
Well, anyone who knows me knows this: I had tears in my eyes. I have never had a complete stranger tell me that I was helping them do their work through my work with children they don’t even know. I was overwhelmed by his kindness and the power of his sincerity. I thanked him and he tipped his hat and went back to his detail.
My intention when teaching kids yoga is to give kids tools to calm and regulate their bodies, to consider others feelings along with their own, to connect to themselves and to the world around them, and to pause and breathe before they take action. I didn’t know I could love my work so much and yet there are many days when I wonder if this small thing that I do matters beyond the four walls I teach in. I often tell myself that no matter how class unfolds (or falls apart on occasion) that the kids know I care about them. And I let that be enough—but I often can’t help wondering if I am making any kind of change or difference in the world.
Today, as I am headed toward my back-to-school teaching schedule, the Universe stepped in with a big reminder: What I do each day, what every one of us does each day, makes a difference. We may never know it directly, hear about it, or get an award for it, but its true. We touch the lives of others like that ripple in the water—for real.
So thank you Police Officer Serge, for reminding me that we all matter. That no one’s work is small or purposeless. And that the effect we have in the world happens in ways mostly unseen by our eyes and without fanfare or a trophy. We simply have to have faith in our intentions and enjoy our efforts and the connections we make each day.
This powerful exchange happened today because I said hello to a fellow human being that I didn't know. And that friends, is why I talk to strangers.