I had the displeasure of taking my car to the dealership recently. General maintenance, but still it was kind of a hassle because it was on a precious Saturday morning.
But trying to make lemonade out of lemons, I decided to use my time in the waiting room constructively and read a book I downloaded on my phone. About two chapters in, a gentleman sitting next to me made a loud comment about something on the television that I was conveniently using as background noise.
Being pseudo-polite, I raised my head and nodded toward the man; this was the opening he looked for to start a conversation that made my nearly two-hour trip to the dealership fly by.
He was an older gentleman of mixed-race and you could tell by word one that he was a kind soul. Over the hour and a half we chatted, we touched on race, religion, the future and the past … you know, all the stuff we’re taught to never talk about outside of the home.
He told me of his heritage — he was part French and part African-American — but in the eyes of those he grew up around back in the 1950s and 1960s, they never mentioned his beret-wearing family. He grew up in Washington, DC during the Vietnam War, where he went on to serve but had trouble fighting for a country that he didn’t feel a part of, or truly welcome in.
We talked politics (we didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything and that was OK), how news folks need to change their ways and stop giving viewers “fool-aid,” and how if people really followed what their beliefs teach — and not be so selective — that the world would be a much better place.
As fate would have it, we were both called at the same time by the service manager, so we shook hands and thanked each other for making the time go quicker.
So why am I writing about this story in a parenting blog? Well, for three reasons actually.
First, if I kept my nose in my phone I would never have learned so much about someone else’s journey, a journey I honestly knew nothing about. Too often we let our kids keep their noses buried in our/their phones and miss out on so much. Go gadget-free on your next trip and have them see what they’ve been missing.
Second, everyone’s story is so much different than yours and if you take the time to listen, you can learn from those differences and come away with a better understanding that although we all take different paths, people are all trying to get to that place that makes them happy and better people.
Last, we need to teach our children that they can learn from other people’s experiences, all they have to do is listen. I’m glad my Dad taught me to listen, because I would have never gotten to learn so much about life (mine and others), and how to make it better.
Not every chance encounter will be life changing … but you never know, and that’s what makes life worth living!
– Jim Pesta, Parenting Program participant and father of two girls