The beauty of life is that one “yes” is all it takes. One conversation, one chance encounter, one word can make all the difference. But you have to be willing to put yourself out there for these moments to happen.
My dad recently reminded me of this power when he told me a story about an elderly couple he had met while hiking a popular pilgrimage trial across Northern Spain, the “Camino de Santiago”.
Since my wife and I were living in Barcelona at the time, we were fortunate enough to be his point of contact throughout his month long journey. Every few days we would get a call and hear an update on the places he had seen, new food he had tried, and of course, the people he had met. I really enjoyed his calls and emails. It allowed me to see my dad as a kid, just like me, out on his big adventure, and with each passing day I could hear the excitement build in his voice as he approached his goal of the town of Santiago de Compostela, 900km away from where he started.
I loved hearing about all of his stories, but one story in particular really stood out, and my wife and I both agreed that walking across a foreign country just to hear it made the whole trip worthwhile.
On one of his last days on the “Camino” he came across an elderly couple in their late 80´s, a Dutch man and a Norwegian woman. Wanting to learn more about what had brought a couple of their age to Spain, and curious to hear their story, he approached them and introduced himself.
After some small talk, he learned that 4 years earlier the two, who did not know each other at the time, were walking the “Camino” alone for their own reasons (they had both recently lost their previous partner), and one day their paths crossed and they briefly met. It was nothing more than your standard quick encounter with a stranger, they did not even exchange their names, but something about the man intrigued her. A few months passed, and to her surprise, her thoughts kept coming back to this mystery man she briefly met, one day in Spain.
After going back and forth for a while, one day she decided she was going to do something about it. Not knowing where to begin, she decided to email the offices of the Camino de Santiago and ask for the names of any Dutch men that finished the walk during that time. As luck would have it, and to her surprise (and apparently loose regulations) she was given four names, three more than what she was hoping. Later that day she sat down and wrote four identical Christmas cards to each of the men, and crossed her fingers. A few days later she received a letter in return. They have been together ever since.
My words do not do their story justice, but just imagine: a woman in her 80s. She briefly meets a man. She cannot stop thinking about him. She decides to put herself out there by writing four letters. One day she gets one in return, and a few years later they are seen walking the “Camino de Santiago” together as a couple, and not just the shadows of what could have been.
When I first heard this story my imagination was running wild envisioning the woman sitting down alone as she set out to write four Christmas cards, and the look on her face when she opened her mail and saw his name staring back at her a few days later. But once my mind slowed, I sat back and thought about the whole story. And as I travelled back, I envisioned someone else, I envisioned my dad, a 73-year old American guy walking alone in a foreign country and stopping to talk to a couple that just simply intrigued him.
How many times do we let the opportunities to talk to people that interest us pass us by?
How many times do we throw caution to the wind and allow our curiosity to guide us?
How many times do we put deadlines, goals, and commitments in front of just living in the moment and talking to someone who looks like they have a story to share?
The woman might be your hero, but my dad is mine.
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Originally published at medium.com