Hey, remember my 100 People in 100 Days project? Last year on January 9th I challenged myself to meet at least one new person every day for the first 100 days of the year. Well, today is Day 365 – the one-year anniversary of my project.
Technically my 100 days were over on Good Friday of 2014, but I liked it so well that I decided to continue it with only a few modifications. In the last 265 days of the year I tried to average one new person a day, which worked well. I had promised that I would count everyone that I had met at the end of Day 100. Unfortunately, I only got up to March in my journal and notes before I got too depressed about the beginning of the year to continue. I never did complete that official count. After a much, much better fall I’m feeling less anxious about completing that count up to Day 365. I hope to spend some time in my journal, notes, day planner, and scraps of paper in order to come up with an official number soon.
I wasn’t really expecting this to turn out to be anything much, but my 100 People in 100 Days has been one of the sweetest surprises that I’ve had in a long time. This has been profound experience, and now, on the one-year anniversary of the project, I want to tell you why. I found that most people love making a human connection, even on a very small scale. Every person has fully developed life, and sometimes they’re willing to let you see a tiny peek into their stories.
It was a big year for professional development, which was a great help to the project. I attended three big conferences in California and Minnesota. Lots of people to meet at big history conferences, as well as the local hoteliers, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, museum folk, vendors, etc. I also gave talks to several large groups. A university class came to visit my historic site so I met those thirty students. This fall I spoke to the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec, and met another forty of so of their members. I met the preservation specialist who is helping us update our National Register nomination.
At AASLH 2014 I “met” Garrison Keillor (if listening to him talk in the plenary session and then standing next to him in the crowded hallway as he signed books counts). In October I attended the Museum of the Bible Gala, where I met Steve and Jackie Green of Hobby Lobby ownership, along with the president of The Pocket Testament League, and Adrian Rodger’s son. On a smaller scale, I met Eric Singer, a former news anchor here in town. This summer I met a camera woman from CSPAN who was here to do a report on Colorado Springs history. She and I hit it off right away and had a nice chat about how lovely the Pikes Peak Region is in the summertime. I also met Lisa Anderson, an editor from Focus on the Family that one of my friends wanted me to meet. I met a state senator and county commissioner at the Navy Ball.
People I met Through Circumstances I Don’t Want to Be In Again
You already know that my ACL tear caused me to meet several doctors, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, MRI technicians, and insurance agents. So not what I had expected when I wanted to meet 100 new people. These are all lovely people who I enjoyed very much, but this year when I re-up my commitment to the project I’m adding “medical people” to my list of people that I don’t want to meet. On a positive note, though, I met the rock-star trauma therapist who has been a big, big, part of my healing journey in the last six months.
I also met two plumbers who unclogged my bathtub drain and told me I need to replace all the pipes in my 1950s house. Boo. When my refrigerator broke I met a few salespeople who ranged from awesome (thanks, Home Depot!) to scuzzy (*ahem, Appliance Factory Outlet), and the two nice but overworked delivery guys who delivered my shiny new one. 2015: no more appliance salespeople or delivery people, ok? Also, enough with the home repair stuff.
New Friends, Swell People
Mostly, though, the people that I met, though, came to me through the ordinary circumstances of my daily life. I met my Presbyterian pastor a few months before he left to move back home. At a mutual friend’s birthday party this spring I met a nice girl named Rebecca who is now my friend too. I made friends with an opera singer from Boston, and an illustrator from Japan. At an art show in December a stranger asked me about buying one of my linocut prints. I met our new general manager and our new CFO. I met the security guard who gives me a visitor badge every time I visit City Hall for meetings. I met the guy and gal who run the Mountain Pie Meat Company and bought a meat pie from them almost every Sunday during the Acacia Park Market.
In Oklahoma I found out that the front desk guy at Enterprise Car Rental had just graduated from my alma matter, and in the middle of the OKC airport he shouted “Bison, go with ka-rip!!” and we both launched into our school chant, in a fit of delighted laughter.
Lastly, at the end of 2014 I met one of our staff members who is going to take me to (drumroll please) Southeast Asia this summer.
I’m so thankful for a project that pushed me to say “hello” to people, especially those I see in ordinary circumstances that don’t really require introductions. From photographers on hiking trails to the security guard at City Hall, I’m amazed at how the simple act of paying kind attention to a total stranger makes them blossom. I’m also thankful to have had a reason to remember all of these random folks. When you think about it, most of us have people coming and going from our lives all the time and we don’t really make much note of them. This project made me actually pay attention to and remember those random people I shake hands with in church. And those friends-of-friends who I’ll maybe never see again. And the thirty students on a field trip. And appliance delivery men.
This really surprised me. Shocked me, even. As an introvert, I had never pushed myself to talk to so many strangers and the amount of openness and friendless that most people responded to me with was so lovely and sweet. I think it helps a lot that I’m a kindly-looking, WASP, small, blonde, young woman. I’m not so sure that the social dynamics would be the same if I were, say, a male (as a young woman I am generally way more guarded towards men that I don’t know) a little older, a different class, or another race (most unfortunately.)
I’d like to challenge a few others to take on the project with me again this year. It would be great fun to have a friend do it with me, to see how many people we can meet between the two of us. Or to challenge one of the total strangers that I meet to take on the project. Or to have a cultural anthropologist who remembers more about analytics than I do who could do it and then write about it.
Yesterday, in a fun twist of fate, I re-met someone I had encountered for the first time almost exactly a year ago when I first began this project. At lunchtime I walked by photographer Larry Marr, who was taking pictures of a hawk in Garden of the Gods. He stopped me, and said, “We met before up on the Dakota Trail! Do you remember me? How has your year been?” Oh, Larry, of course I remember you! It was this project, started 365 days ago, that made me ask you, a total stranger on a hiking trail, what kind of lens he was using on his DSLR. On that brilliant January day you were kind to me, showed me the photos you were taking of the bighorn sheep, and we had a nice conversation. Thank you, Larry, for sharing a small bit of your day with a strange girl in hiking boots and a work dress. Your kindness and openness encouraged me to keep going on my brand-new challenge, and my life is so much richer.