Arranging the Pieces: Meeting new people

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By Tabitha Bozeman

Last weekend, we took our annual family trip to Tallahassee, FL to see a game at my husband’s all-time favorite school and alma mater: FSU. If you keep up with the ole sports ball, you know it was a momentous game: it was senior night, the 2013 National Championship team made an exciting guest appearance, Jameis Winston was there to see his number retired, and the starting quarterback suffered a college career-ending injury. It was quite the night, and we all had a great time. But, that game really isn’t what I will remember about our trip, or what I am the most thankful for. We stay in a small coastal town each year, and this year we were able to do some of the same fun things, but we also explored and found new stops to add to our annual trek. Along the way, we met some of the kindest, most interesting people.

We made small connections with individuals we may never see again on this trip, but those moments made the experience even better than expected. There were, of course, the strangers on the beach who wanted to see and pet our puppy, which is always fun. But there were others we met, too, and made more substantial connections with. On every trip we take, wherever we go, one of my favorite things to do is look for bookstores. On this trip, we found the My Favorite Books bookstore. Inside, there were all the books we could want, a sweet children’s coloring area we took advantage of, local art — I brought home the sweetest little cardinal painting for my office — and the kindest staff. The person who helped us was friendly and fun to chat with and explained their special program that helps provide teachers with books for their classrooms. The proceeds from painting I purchased went to support that program. We chatted for quite a while, and left feeling warmed by the conversation. It was such a fun stop, and I can’t wait to go back to visit it next year and hear what else that bookstore is doing in its community.

Before we went to the game, we stopped for a quick meal at a local fast food place. I didn’t have high expectations. The food was great, though, and “fast” doesn’t even describe how quickly they filled our order as we watched them cook. The crew was having fun, and it was a delight to watch and listen to them banter back and forth. As we left, I made sure to tell them how wonderful they had been; on the way out the door I heard the woman at the counter say “I wish y’all could have heard what she said! She said we were great!” That small connection made a difference in their day.

I also met an amazing human in front of Staples. They were standing alone with a display for an anti-bullying campaign that I believe is based in Birmingham. We had a chat about how the program helps kids with educational programs and support. I walked away thankful for the individuals all over who see a need and help create solutions.

We also met a woman on the beach our last day of the trip we connected with and it was so sweet to see her little girl play with our youngest. It turned out we were all in education and had an interesting conversation about her career path and experience. By the time we finished chatting, we’d exchanged info and will stay in touch. A similar chance encounter happened at the football game. As the stands were clearing out at the end, some teens behind us started singing songs from the musical Hamilton. I jokingly said they were singing our language, and Jason asked if they were theatre kids. Turned out, they were there with a theatre teacher! Another fun connection and conversation ensued.

This time of year gets busy and frustrating a lot of times — and sometimes those closest to us bear the brunt of that frustration. This trip went a long way toward reminding me to look for the connections, for the unexpected similarities, even in unfamiliar surrounds among strangers. When we look for these moments, we affirm our own human-ness, and that of those around us. It helps remind us that we really are all just doing our best each day. I’m thankful for those reminders, and I hope you each find your own moments to connect during this holiday season.

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