The Kindness of Strangers

I have a goal. To write more! Between running, grad classes, teaching, Spartan training workouts, cooking, meal prep, and life itself… I find I neglect this. And I do love it so. But sometimes you have to wait for that moment that forces you to write again.

This moment came to me Monday. After work, I took my dog for a walk – it was a rest day. As we head into our neighbourhood park, I bump into one of our “park friends”. As someone who runs/walks daily (sometimes twice a day) in our neighbourhood park, I meet a lot of people. Some stop and chat. Some say hello. Some I know their names. Some I forget their names often. Some we don’t even bother to introduce ourselves – content being known as what we all know we call each other – that lady with the black lab; or old guy who bird watches. Some we only smile at and have never talked. The park is an amazing community of strangers of different levels. 

This Monday’s encounter was with a stranger who I do know her name. She goes by Kris. Kris and I met for the first time after Ginny’s attack 3 years ago. She was actually there when my dog was attacked by two dogs but was a distance away and could only hear it happen. Not see it. We bumped into each other a few week’s after the attack when she was in conversation with another park stranger I bump into often. When this stranger asked me how Ginny was, Kris realized who I was and told me she was there the day it happened.

Since then, Kris and I bump into each other at least once a month. We chat. Our dogs sniff each other. Sometimes our catch up chats go for 20 minutes. She always begins every unexpected meeting with “damn girl you are getting skinny”. She has seen me go from 230 pounds to 161. 

This Monday meet started like all of the rest. “Damn girl…you’re getting so skinny…I almost didn’t recognize you!” I changed the subject to her and we chat. We talk about how much Ginny has improved with her anxiety and hyperness. Kris tells me (as she has many times) how impressed she is with how I’ve worked with Ginny and her lunging at dogs, bikes… etc. Through this – Ginny proves her comments true as she ignores several dogs and bikes. Kris asks me about my running again and what I’ve done for events recently. When I told her about my recent half marathon I completed, I see a tear in her eye. It’s spring. I think it is allergies. When she asks if I mind telling her how much I’ve lost now… I tell her… 93.3 pounds. And now I can clearly see it isn’t allergies. She is crying. For me. With happiness. A random stranger who I meet here and there without planning. She tells me how proud she is of me and she turns away, embarassed of her tears. I smile and thank her.

We finish our chat, realize it is getting late, and we both mention having suppers to get to. We leave not knowing when we will next bump into each other again.

As I continue on my way through the park, it is the first time I realize how much this neighbourhood park means to me and has become a part of me. 

These paths. These views. They are a part of my “home”. They are where I first began to change myself. It is here where I first took the courage to try and run. It is here where I never gave up – even when I was slow, tired, and overweight. It is here where the possibility of getting my running partner became possible. Once I made my walks and runs routine, my boyfriend and I realized I could now handle what I’ve always wanted – a dog. So it is here where Ginny and I grew together. First as owner and pet. Then as friends. Then best friends. And eventually as running partners. It is here where I clear my head of bad days and bad events. It is here where I have had many of my best days. It is here where I have shared my love for running with students and with family and with friends. 

So thanks to Kris…my random stranger friend….for reminding me that kindness, in any form, is necessary even to a stranger. Thank you for caring enough about me, someone you barely know, to share happy tears in my success in changing my life. Thank you for reminding me to not take these moments in the park – whether with our random stranger “friendships” or the personal, individual moments that we experience on our own.

It is here where I became someone so completely different. It is here where I look forward to seeing myself grow – as a runner (soon to also add Spartan race athlete); as a dog owner; as a teacher; as a friend; as a life changer; and as a random park stranger. 

Don’t be afraid to talk to those strangers that you see every day. They can sometimes be your source of motivation to keep you moving forward. Be your source of remembering to appreciate all the moments of life. Be the tears of your happiness – reminding you to be proud of yourself. A random stranger can be a friend. 

Thank you Kris. If you ever read this.