My dad was a real Oklahoma-Will-Rogers-kind-of-a-guy – he never met a stranger. As I get older I seem to be picking up a little more of that from him, and I see it in my brother and sister, also. My husband is like that, too.
As I think back on some of the really interesting happenstance conversations I’ve had with people over the years, I realize that I should’ve recorded them in a journal or something. It would take a miracle to ever meet any of those people again, but they left indelible impressions on me.
I remember one with a lady on a bus in London. She was older than me and I knew that she would remember World War II. One of my fascinations with history is the WWII era, particularly in Britain. The British people were so incredibly brave and determined. So I asked her about it. She seemed a bit surprised at first, then began sharing her experiences. It was an enriching time, there on that bus in the early darkness of winter afternoon between women of 2 different generations and nationalities.
Another that has always seemed poignant to me, was in 1992 on a bench at the San Diego zoo. I had parked there while Joe took our then 11-yr. old son to one of the exhibits that I never ever go to. As so often happens, the lady next to me struck up a conversation. She was Jewish, from New York. I am evangelical from the south. We had a wonderful time. She commented that I had a nice smile (I don’t remember anyone ever having told me that before or since.) My regret is that I didn’t tell her about how the Jewish Messiah has made such a difference in my life.
One of the ironies of life is that while we were talking, I mentioned that we lived in Keller, Texas. This startled the man on the other side of me who could hear our conversation. He piped in and said that his former sister-in-law taught high school there. Lo and behold, she had been our older son’s history teacher!
Last Thursday, Joe and I took our grandsons to the McDonald’s in Decatur, Texas. While we were eating, my husband said “Ut-oh” (I just do not know how to type that phrase because it looks so odd, but that’s how we say it. I think in books it’s usually spelled “oh, oh” but we don’t really say it that way.) I looked up and about 20 young men were coming in and I thought “Ut-oh”, too.
By the tired looks on their faces and the ice bag taped on an arm and their uniforms, it was obvious that they’d just come from a football game and had stopped to eat on their way back home. Several times in the past we’ve been in fast food places when a bus load of school kids would come in and the atmosphere became a little livelier, shall we say?
But the longer they were there, the longer I repented of my initial reaction of dismay. They were the quietest, most well-behaved group of young people that I’ve ever encountered in public and I told that to their coach, and that he should be proud of them. I don’t know what the name of their particular school was, but they were middle-schoolers from Wichita Falls and wore black and orange uniforms.
Hooray for them and their parents! They were so quiet that I didn’t even notice when they left.
At that same McDonald’s last year, we talked with a woman about my age who was there with her daughter and grand-daughters. They were from Archer City. The irony was that the woman had been an extra in “The Last Picture Show” – which was filmed in Archer City – and that was the movie Joe took me to on our first formal date.
( Now, let me say here and now that I don’t like that movie. I think it stinks. And I don’t like Larry McMurtry in general or specific, although I did enjoy the Lonesome Dove mini-series.)
The lady told me that her husband had driven a vehicle in several of the films made there. She said that Jeff Bridges and Timothy Bottoms were nice and that Cybil Shepherd was for the first movie, but very snobbish to the locals during the filming of the sequel.
I wonder if celebrities ever think about the impressions of themselves that they give when meeting the general public? Tommy Lee Jones was filming something in Kentucky (maybe the River?) several years ago. He was so rude to the locals that it was written up in one of the newspapers. TLJ is a great actor, but whenever I see him in anything, I always think of that.
Sometimes we only have a few seconds to connect with another person who we’ll never see again. What kind of impression will I make? Will they feel better or worse from having talked with me? I cringe when I think of some of the times when I’ve been frustrated and rude with a clerk or bus driver.
Oh, Lord, please help me to make the best of the opportunities You give me.