Sunday, November 7, 2010

"OH! The people you will meet!

"Ohhhhh The places you'll go!
You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights"

One of my best friends handed me the famous "Oh! The Places You'll Go" as we said goodbye on my final night in Bethlehem, prior to my leaving the states, prior to my new journey. I always wanted to rewrite this book and title it "Oh! The people you will meet!"

I think of this over and over again each time I meet a new person, each time I hear a new story, each time I hear a new name. I think of writing it today as I have made my trek across the Atlantic and have introduced myself to numbers and numbers of people: from the airport security men, to the young man who sat next to me in the terminal patiently awaiting the flight to see his girlfriend to my new roommates. Most of these people are people that I will only have met for a few minutes, a brief instance of mutual exchange, a valuable moment. I'll normally take the moments after to create more of a story for that person. I'll pretend that the airport security man has had to tackle a terrorist or that the boy waiting to see his girlfriend has not told her that he is coming, that he is surprising her, and that their world is going to be perfect. I love people. I love stories. So when I come across someone and I get to hear their story...I can't help but smile over that moment--that perfect moment where one of us felt comfortable enough with the other to share a brief valuable time in our lives.

I got to hear a few of these stories yesterday.

Let's face it, my Italian is molto brutto (very ugly---for now), so when I entered a cab in Florence and tried to speak Italian to my driver, it was a relief to hear him know English. This first ride would not be a quiet one. We spoke back and forth to one another, me desperately trying to speak Italian and him fixing my every error. And then with ten minutes left in our drive, he reminded me why I loved Italy so much, why I love Italians so much. It is not because of the food (though my first slice of pizza yesterday was phenomenal), and it isn't because of their leather (though I did feel like I fit in, in my black fake leather jacket), no, it is because of their love for talking, their love for stories.

And as I exchanged life stories with Stefano, I wondered if I would ever find the same happiness as him, if I would ever be perfectly content never marrying someone the way he has (my mother would never approve), if I would ever be content dedicating my life to one thing like he has (he rowed in the 1996 Olympics and considers himself marries to his boat), and if I would ever just be simply happy. He clearly knew happiness, as he dropped me off at my apartment refusing tip money and wishing me the best of luck in my time in Florence.

But he was just the first of many that I exchanged stories with on my first day--in my first hours. As I sat down for my first cappuccino, a young man sat to my left with his own. I turned with a smile on my face and exclaimed, MI PIACE CAPPUCCINO!. And he turned, and smiled, a big wide grin, and said, "ANCHE IO!" I soon discovered that he was from Africa, but knew no English. Fortunately, he bared with me and my wonderful (ahem) Italian. We ended up going on to speak in fragments for nearly forty minutes exchanging names and numbers and an arrangement for a future coffee date. And as he walked away, to return to work, I just kept thinking about all the people I will meet...and all the stories that I will hear.

As I continued to sit alone at my table, I looked around me and just felt happiness--like Stefano, and I just smiled--a lot. It may become a very lasting habit...In the words of Elf--Smiling may just become "my favorite."


  1. What a lovely snapshot of a moment. I used to work in a print shop and there used to be this old man who was so full of stories, and he used to come in with stacks and stacks of handwritten pages to have typed into books. I loved doing his projects because his books were always about the people and characters he'd met over his life, and little anecdotes of what brought them together, and the stories they'd shared...

  2. Old men with stories are my favorite. They really know how to make you think about life and what to do with it. I loved this comment because i love the idea of hearing new stories each and every day. How wonderful a job that must have been!