Chinese Teahouse: The People of February

IMG_4049Happy March! After a snowy and dark February I am delighted with our Colorado Bluebird Day that we are having today. To continue my regular monthly updates for my 100 People in 100 Days project, here are my musings on some of the people that I met in February:

Number of new people met in February 2015: 65

 

How I met them: On the first day of the month I met a woman named Beth at church, who was waiting for her daughter to finish up a marathon. A few days later I chatted up a guy at a bar named Gideon, who was in town from Denver and who works as a high school principal. I also met people at a new boot camp that I’ve been trying out, at a local gathering of my artist-friends, a Valentines’ party, and a meeting about City for Champions. Towards the end of the month I spoke at a docent-appreciation lunch at work and met some of our new tour guides. This project makes me mindful of the new people filtering in and out of my life under normal daily circumstances such as these.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the last two years of flooding have exacerbated some issues with my poor tiny house. I’ve had several people out to give me bids on what to do. The first company that looked at things in January told me that I would need to pier my house into the bedrock to the tune of $15,000. After I picked myself up off of the floor, I decided to get a second opinion and met a guy named Craig who specializes in historic preservation. He came over and gave me some very reassuring and sensible advice: take care of the water issues and patch up the cracks. We’re going to grade the front of the lot to move water away from the foundation and epoxy the cracks. Through this experience I also met a structural engineer named Steve who came over with his laser level and confirmed that course of action. A structural engineer and a contractor: two people I didn’t know to hope not to meet. All in all, though, I think they are good guys and even though I’m frustrated with the circumstances I met them under I’m thankful for them.

On the weekend of our Snowpocolypse (which didn’t materialize as powerfully as predicted), I attended an orientation session for my cross-cultural trip to Southeast Asia. While I was annoyed to be working on a weekend, it was a very fruitful occasion for meeting new people: at least 19 new faces.

Most Interesting Person: On the last day of February, two friends and I walked to a new Chinese teahouse in our neighborhood. It was a surprising experience! Jars filled with teas and herbs lined the walls, and the young female owner told us about all of them. We thought that she would give us a cup of tea and leave us to enjoy it on our own, but instead she sat down with us and served us the entire time. We watched in amazement as she warmed our tiny cups, gracefully pouring water onto her wooden tea box. To our surprise, she made herself the focus of the conversation and she told us quite a lot about herself. Her name is Tanya and she’s a young immigrant from China. She opened her tea house a year ago. She had such a sad, wistful expression on her face when she asked how my friends and I know each other. She told us that she misses her girlfriends in China, and that on a Saturday there they would spend all day shopping. After she expressed how homesick she was, she moved on to some very strong thoughts on all kinds of matters. She hates Milan, Italy. She hates Denver too, but does like Colorado Springs. (This is my opinion on the essence of both cities too). She thinks we’re all too busy in America. She also told us about how she learned about strippers through a neighboring store that sells “stripper shoes,” and innocently asked us, “It’s normal in America for people to not wear clothes, right?” We quickly corrected her. Anyway, homesick Tanya needs some friends.

I think a lot about building intentional relationships: deeply investing in people’s lives, minds, and souls. As a good INFJ I think it’s pretty natural for me to see straight through to a person’s inner being and care about them. For the last several years I have tried hard to build these kinds of friendships with the people close to me, but this project makes me realize that I need to be intentional with the new people coming into my life as well. In church yesterday we heard one of our local young business owners talking about strategically building friendships with the people that we meet around town. He and his business partner have built a wonderful gathering space for the community and they are deeply investing in the lives of their staff members and in the lives of their customers. I started my 100 People in 100 Days project last year because I had just endured a bitter season of loss and simply needed to add some extra people into my social circle, and to have a challenge to pull me out of a dark place. Four hundred and twenty three days later, I am thinking about what it would mean intentionally invest in Tanya’s life in order to care for her inner self.

Fate

Standing in the security queue at the Louisville Airport, a young guy walked next to me in the maze of stanchions and ropes. I thought I recognized him, which was weird because other than my cohort that I had met with downtown this weekend, I don’t really know anyone in Louisville. He ended up standing just a few people behind me in line and I overheard him talking on his cellphone. “Hi, this is Justin,” he said to the anonymous person on the other end of the conversation. Suspicion confirmed and feeling brave, I caught his eye when he finished talking and asked, “Hi, did I meet you this weekend at the Frazier Museum?”

Yes! And he remembered meeting me too. A serendipitous chance re-encounter for the latest round of my 100 People in 100 Days project!

I am writing the draft of this post from a bumpy airplane ride home from Louisville, Kentucky. This weekend I served on the AASLH Program Committee. It was a great time and I enjoyed being reunited with three of my SHA2013 friends. During our 48 hours in Kentucky we served our field by helping to put together the program for this year’s AASLH annual meeting. Naturally, we also found some times for adventures too including a serendipitous discovery of the 21C Art Hotel.

Friday afternoon I met a friend at the Frazier Museum. We both wondered how the unusual collections of arms and armaments came to be in Louisville, theorizing that Frazier must have been the collector and donor who amassed everything. We walked out the door as the museum was closing and stood in the late afternoon sun for a few moments, gazing at the beautiful building. My friend decided to go back inside to ask how this particular building became a museum space.

I followed him inside and we found a staff member chatting with two guys: a younger man with his hands resting lightly on the handles of the older man’s wheelchair. We patiently waited our turn to talk with the staff member but overheard the two men were asking pretty much the same questions that we had too. Drawing near the little group, we eventually became part of the conversation ourselves. The staff member we met, Jodi, turned out to be on the AASLH local arrangements committee and she was really excited that we had come to the museum. After chatting for about twenty minutes I also introduced myself to the historically curious civilians. The older gentleman’s name is George and he recently moved to Kentucky to live in a retirement home near his son. The younger guy is Justin and he was visiting his family, and taking his granddad/uncle (never sure exactly the relation) out for the afternoon. We all shook hands, said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways.

So yes, I was quite surprised to see Mr. Justin-of-Museum walking into the security line at the Louisville airport 46 hours later. What are the chances of someone that you randomly meet in an unfamiliar city showing back up in your life two days later? What are the chances that a fellow tourist that you meet at a museum has a flight back home on the exact same day as you, at nearly the exact same time? And, even better, what are the chances that this stranger you talked to for about 20 minutes will remember you too and the details of that conversation? Crazy!

Justin and I went through security together and on the walk through the terminal I found out that he works in pathology in New York City. He also likes museums, and in fact visited another museum right before coming to the airport. We parted ways with a handshake and a curious feeling that our second meeting was somehow meant to be.

Despite the fact that I recently re-met photographer Larry Marr after a full year, I never really thought about how the people that I’m meeting on this project are processing the experience on their end. I think that I’ve been operating under the assumption that most of the time, I’m just white noise to these strangers and that they pretty much immediately forget about me. Perhaps I’m more memorable than I thought. And maybe I should be thinking a little bit harder about the nature of God’s sovereignty in my daily life.

Day 365

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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.

History People

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.

Celebrities

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.

County Commission Sally Clark with my friend Jim Downing

County Commission Sally Clark with my friend Jim Downingc

People I met Through Circumstances I Don’t Want to Be In Again

You already know about 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. It looks like I’ll be traveling to Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore in late June.

Conclusions

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.

Day 99

Good Friday 2014, and Day 99 of my 100 People in 100 Days. Last night at a big city-wide sponsored by our local newspaper, I met a board member from a museum where I had my first-ever internship in college. He was wearing a name tag with his institutional affiliation on it and it was an easy connection to make. He was a nice guy, seemed pleased to meet me, and asked if I wanted to make a formal partnership between our two institutions. Thank you, 100 Days project for pushing me out of my introvert zone and giving me a reason to talk to friendly looking strangers. I started tabulating my results yesterday and am looking forward to the big Day 100 tomorrow. Until then, have a blessed Good Friday!

100 Days, 100 People

Happy new year! I have some big changes to my blog coming up soon (a new site, probably, and new subjects) so watch for those in the near future. Until then, I have my first personal goal for the year. I want to meet at least one new person every single day for the next 100 days. I was watching that video that has gone viral of the woman who was inspired by the #giveit100 to work out for 100 days in a row, and I wanted to challenge myself to grow in a positive direction too. Political commentators often remark on what the President has done during his/her (eventually within my lifetime a her) first 100 days; it seems like a good amount of time to get something important done.  It’s also been just about 100 days since my Daddy died unexpectedly, and I have been praying about having something new and joyful sprout up in my life to help me gain altitude again.  So,  I decided that I would like to meet at least new person every day for the next 100 days as an antidote for grief and a road to wonder and joy. Here’s about the project, and how you can participate with me:

Q) Why did you decide that you want to meet 100 new people in the next 100 days?

A) Because I would like to more mindful of the people around me in my natural circles of influence, because I want something fun and exciting to look forward to in each day, because I want to increase my number of teammates and friendly faces after a season of terrible loss, and because I’d like to meet some new friends. As an introvert I also need a kick in the pants to say hello to strangers.

Q) What are the guidelines for this challenge?

A) There aren’t many. The person that I meet may be completely new to me, or they may be someone who I see around all the time that I have never actually spoken to or officially swapped names. They might be a new girl at the office or that cashier at the grocery store who always wears Broncos jerseys. They might be friends-of-friends that I meet at concerts or parties. They might be people at the large church that I recently started attending. They might be the homeless guys on the street.  Babies are easy to meet, as a friendly dog owners. The only people who I am NOT looking to meet are those with evil intent towards me or general baddies – no thank you.

Q) How’s it going?

A) I started my 100 days on January 9, 2014. Today I am on Day 5 and it’s going far better than expected! I’ve met friends of friends, the director of a local non-profit who runs music festivals, and new people at work. I even met my pastor (those of you who go to very large churches get that it’s actually pretty common in these large bodies to go years without actually meeting your head pastor).  The web of interconnectedness of even these new people is astonishing me! On Saturday I met P, who works at our local consignment gear store. As it turns out, he knows my friend-of-a-friend J, and told me that he was going to J’s mother’s house that evening for dinner. On Sunday I was surprised to meet J’s mom herself – turns out she works at the other gear store in town. When she told me who she was, I asked her how her dinner with P had gone and she said they had a great time. It’s SO weird to know evening plans for a total stranger’s life! Anyway, I bet that as these 100 days progress that I’ll find even more odd connections between people.

Q) This sounds like fun! How can I participate?

A) Well, you can strive to meet 100 people in 100 days yourself. You can also help me by making connections for me. If you know someone super-awesome who you think I would enjoy meeting, tell me about them. Is your BFF a cool girl you think I’d enjoy being friends with too? Let me know. Do you have a family member who wants to know more about my historic site? Bring them over! Is your mother the funniest person who ever lived? I want to meet her. You get the idea.

I’ll keep you updated on how things are going. So far, as of Day 5, I have met 12 new people. If things keep up at this rate, I should know hundreds of new people by the time the project is over.