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Chance encounters that offer life lessons

Chance encounters that offer life lessons


Rameshinder Singh Sandhu

THE adage ‘one half of the world doesn’t know how the other half thinks or lives’ usually comes to mind when we meet people in foreign lands.

As I entered the café of Mark Twain’s home and museum in Hartford, Connecticut, after a guided tour of the premises, an elderly woman, who was standing behind the coffee machine, asked me: ‘So, how was the tour?’ This question led to a long conversation. She told me: “Some years ago, after I retired from a bank, I did not want to sit at home all day. This museum was looking for a volunteer for four days a week at the café. As I have always enjoyed stories by this writer, I felt that taking on this role would be like thanking him for the literature he passionately birthed.” Being there also gave her the opportunity to meet other Twain admirers from across the globe. ‘Isn’t that a blessing?’ she said.

A week later, as I was strolling along Lake Michigan in Chicago, I spotted an elderly woman patiently collecting shells. ‘Is this your hobby?’ I asked. With a smile, she replied: “I love decorating mirrors or making necklaces with them. But I don’t just make them for myself. I gift my creations to friends and relatives. It was my late grandmother who taught me this craft and I have many memories of coming to this lake with her. Coming here makes me meet her. But doing what she taught me is the best tribute to her.’

In the restaurant coach of an Amtrak train in Texas, a middle-aged woman behind the food counter, wearing a badge that read ‘free hugs’, caught my attention. ‘Not everyone who travels is on a holiday,’ she told me. ‘Some are on their way to attend the funeral of a loved one, while some others may have lost their job and whatnot. Usually, many have no one to share their grief with, so I decided to be that shoulder to lean on rather than just serving food or coffee. This makes my duty more meaningful,’ she added, handing me her business card, which I have kept as a souvenir. She also showed me a diary in which she recorded details of the travellers who opened their hearts to her. ‘Listening to others matters,’ she remarked.

On Christmas day at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, I spotted an old couple filling a colourful paper bag with chocolates. In a jiffy, the man put on a Santa cap and began distributing the goodies among the passengers. Standing near his wife, I was one of the first to receive them. ‘My husband survived a terrible disease. Out of gratitude, he has made it a ritual to give out chocolates whenever he travels,’ she said.

Every time I recall these meetings, they make me remember that contentment can be found even in little moments and gestures. After all, isn’t it the little things that make all the difference?


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