SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 242: “The Boarders Are Just Lines On A Map”

I arrive to teach my 8:30am spin class early this morning. 7:00am to be exact. And, despite the parking lots absence of cars, other than those parked by the gym and coffee-house crowd, the area is sparse of people. But, with ninety-minutes of free time at hand, it would be a complete waste to just sit in waiting for my class to arrive. So with time to spare, I grab my camera bag to take a hike. Who knows whom I’ll run into?

No one in sight, other than one man sitting at the corner of the shopping center, and with history proving to me that the simplest of hello’s often has resulted in the most fascinating of conversations, I ready my words… mentally preparing for whatever response my sighted stranger presents.

I know it could go either way, a rejection or an acceptance, and at this point of 365, both are acceptable. What is important is that I reached out.

Fifty feet to meeting point, I prepare my words; thirty feet, I scope the light, pre-thinking my photo approach; twenty feet, I take breath in readying to speak; ten feet, before I can say hello, the stranger I approach cuts me off, “Are you part of a racing team?” He inquisitively asks.

“Racing team…? What…?” I think.

Then it hits me, I’m wearing my cycling jersey, logos and all. He thinks I’m on a cycling team. “No I teach spinning at the gym at the end of the shopping center, my class starts in about an hour, I’m killing a little time,” I explain.

“What’s the point Richard? We appreciate the blow-by-blow, but other than theatrics – how is it relevant? Big deal… Man says hi to you.”

Here is what strikes as unique to today’s situation. Three quarters of a year past in my explorations of society and of people, and until today, I have been the sole instigator to every conversation that I have found myself involved in. And today, even before I can make eye contact, my opening words are suppressed by the outreach of a stranger. Turns out that my targeted new friend is just as interested in me as I him. The table has turned a one-eighty on me.

“What’s you name?” he asks with an outstretched handshake.


“Good to meet you Richard, I’m Lawrence, have a seat?”

I’ve spoken endlessly of the impact of hello, and of looking at the world with chin up and eyes open to the people around us. Today I’ve unexpectedly found myself receiving such a gesture, a gesture that in honesty catches me a tad off guard, but a gesture that affirms to me the uniting power of a sincere greeting.

This greeting is what I find so uniquely impactful in meeting Lawrence… today’s stranger… now friend. He approaches me, and in his outreach, Lawrence has further confirmed the possibility of unity within the communities we all find ourselves navigating through each and every day of our lives.

It’s not that we have to reveal deep dark secrets to absolute strangers, to exchange phone numbers or addresses with the unknown, or to be over zealous or insincere in trying to become ongoing friends with everyone. That would be highly impossible and perhaps somewhat superficial or assuming.

It’s really about respect and acceptance of each other as sharers of planet earth. All of us are individuals, deserving of acknowledgment, and in all circumstances worthy of the basic courtesies, even a passing hello.

I tell Lawrence a little about myself, of 365, and of its questions. He listens intently, and before I can grab my notepad, he graciously accepts the invitation by quickly expressing his advice (good thing I have a fairly good memory and Lawrence recaps again once I get my paperwork in hand).

“Every day is a new day…

… And in each day, if we can accomplish what we want to, in working to achieve our goals, we end it with a better sense of achievement.

With that sense of achievement, we can work towards the future, thinking about now, and learning from the past.

Per the future?” Lawrence pauses.

“We should have advanced and become more evolved as a society with a better global perspective.

The boarders are just lines on a map.

We need to put down our differences. The misunderstandings of the ways each other live their daily routines… and their ways of life.”

Lawrence is an articulate man, precise and thoughtful in his words; and a man who today has given us a boost of enthusiasm to continue reaching out. Approximately 1,200 people approached to date, and one unsolicited hello back at us. Tells us something, doesn’t it?

I’m humbled, impressed and inspired.

Lawrence, keep meeting people. You are making a difference in the world.