A chance encounter


So there I was, just chatting away with a teenage girl, something I get little enough opportunity to do at my age and stage of life. Not to mention that it was 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday evening, not exactly when lots of teenage girls are likely to be hanging around with someone the age of their grandmother.

It wasn’t even actually an occasion, this encounter, although sometimes it truly is special when one comes across a teenager who is willing to open up and share some time with a grownup. We all know teenagers don’t always care to carry on a conversation with anyone over the age of 30. I was with this particular teenager was out walking the halls with me late one evening as we tried to get my new knee to stop hurting.

So we took a break on a couple of leather chairs and talked about her career plans. She very ambitious, I thought, for a girl who’s still a junior in high school. Besides, at that age I think it seems pretty easy, that life will just lay out in front of us as we speak it. “I might have to change my mind,” she admitted with a spark in her eye and a broad smile.

I assured her that I believe that these next years are the very times to explore and change one’s mind, that there are many opportunities out there that will present themselves to her. “You’ve got plenty of time,” I told her.

Our late night walk and talk over, she helped me back to my room and went on about her duties. I was left to consider that–just maybe–the future of our country isn’t completely as bleak as it sometimes seems to be if there are many more young adults out there with the drive of this personable, confident, talented young woman.

I wonder if you have ever been lucky enough to happen on a chance encounter like this. There’s something about the anonymity of a public place and the right connection with a stranger that may foster a connection in someone whose path crosses yours even briefly. I’ve seen it happen in a school breakfast line when I could chat with a student pretty easily at that time of day; occasionally, he/she would catch my eye in the lunch line later.

Last week it was with an older woman I didn’t know as we both sat at a dining table. She was struggling with difficult life changes and challenges.

Even though such exchanges don’t always take long, it seems to me they still contribute to who we are, what we’re doing, and just maybe what we an do for someone else.