One of the things that I have been taught over the years as a speaker, is to collect stories and quotes that mean something to me, so quite often I can transpose them into one of my presentations to demonstrate a point. It is still spooky for me when a real life story unfolds in front of me.
The other day in a city centre mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I was having a coffee with a friend of mine, a very lively, vivacious. (40 something) New Yorker, when an older, very elegant American lady came up to our table very politely, apologizing for interrupting us and asked if Julie remembered her from a year ago in Houston. Julie, is a compulsive chatterbox and speaks to numerous people every day, let alone every week, and month, and a year ago! Julie, dazzled the lady with one of her warm open eyed smiles, that I knew from experience meant – she had not got a clue who this woman was. So, we asked her to join us for coffee, which she did. Gently Julie asked her questions about being in Riyadh and how they had met.
Angela Morton had been in Houston to collect the ashes of her husband Jim, they had been married 47 years, when he suddenly died of a stroke. She had wanted to do this journey alone to collect him, but when she got to the street of the undertakers, she could not walk any further. So, she went into a Starbucks, just to collect herself before continuing on. Apparently it had been quite busy, she got her coffee, but could not see anywhere to sit, Julie had jumped up and offered her a chair, then went and found another one, so they sat and chatted for about 30mins. Angela never said where she was going, or what she was doing there, Julie had just happily chatted to her about everyday things. That was the first “normal” conversation she had had since Jim had died, people had treated her gently and kindly, but not just as Angela.
After the coffee, they had both said goodbye and went their own way. Angela collected Jim, took him home and celebrated his life with their family and friends. Her son Jimmy like his father was a military man and was based in the US base in Riyadh. She had come over to visit him and his wife, they had brought her shopping and when she had seen Julie she had wanted to come and speak to her. Now we both noticed a tall, man with his petite blond wife standing just a little way away in front of a shop. We beckoned for them to join us, once they were seated with us, Angela finished her story of their meeting.
On that day she had wanted to pick Jim up alone, because she had decided not to take him home, but to take him with her then she could join him, she did not want to tell any of her family, but she just could not see that she had any life without Jim, they had been sweethearts from school and he was her life. In just one conversation with Julie, as her own person, somebody was interested in her and what she had to say, Angela realized that she could be a person herself. To say now that we were all in tears would be an understatement.
Jimmy said that Angela had not said anything to anyone until several months later, but by then she had joined some local women’s groups and even a dancing class. Nobody close to her could have had that conversation and they were all so grateful to Julie. They never imagined that there would be another chance meeting, but there we were, in a café, thousands of miles from Houston with such an amazing story unfolding.
After big hugs, kisses and thank yous, Jimmy, Dina (his wife) and Angela left us, Julie and I had to have another coffee (as there was nothing stronger!) to get our heads around everything that had just happened. Wow what an amazing friend to have, thank goodness this one New Yorker loves talking to people and the reason Julie was there, she was calming her nerves waiting to go and meet John an ex-military man who she was getting married to. So, after a coffee and a chat two new, happy lives started that day.