‘Good things happen when you meet strangers.’ – Yo-Yo Ma

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it was going to be a sad trip home. i was on via rail, and had boarded in the beautiful city of ottawa, heading back to my home in the states. i’d been to visit my canadian boyfriend, we’d been together 2 years, and had decided to go our separate ways. it was going to be a 13 hour train ride, and i just wanted a chance to think and drift in silence. i sat by myself, purposely, planning to listen to music and not do much else.

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as we were about to leave the station, a man sat down in the seat right next to me. he looked a bit world-weary, and had on a well-worn leather jacket, that looked much like his lived-in face. he introduced himself, had a very deep and gruff voice, and my first thought was, ‘oh no, i really, really don’t feel like talking to anyone, and this is going to be a really, really long trip.’

after a bit of polite banter, we sat, in silence once again, next to each other, and watched the landscape roll by. as i looked out, i began to think about everything, and a tear rolled silently down my face. i knew it was the right thing that had happened, that my boyfriend and i were not meant to be together, but also, how much i would miss him being a part of my life, even if we were in two different countries.

when he saw this, my stranger on the train reached into his jacket and pulled out a flask, and offered to share his whiskey with me. and  he began to tell me his story. he had been on this trip that he was so excited about, but was returning to his hometown a very sad man. he had gone to ask his girlfriend to marry him, had the ring and the speech and the flowers, and she had answered him, ‘no.’

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hours went by as we shared his whiskey and shared our stories. after a while, i began to stop feeling sad for myself, and took on a sadness for him and what he had just been through. we talked and talked, and found that we didn’t have many things in common, other than wounded hearts and our love of people. after a long while, i fell asleep and he continued to sit near me, ever the vigilant soldier, protective, and somehow connected by a break of the heart. i slept for a long while, and woke up to an amazing act of kindness.

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i discovered that he had taken off his beloved coat and covered me with it, had put a granola bar in my hand,  and put the engagement ring on my finger. when i looked at him, wondering why, he told that he worried i would wake up cold, be hungry, or feel unloved. he wanted to make sure that none of that happened.

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he said i had made him feel so much better, just by being there and listening, and that he hoped that i knew someone cared, even if it was a stranger. i told him that i was overwhelmed by his kind heart, that he had helped me in the same way, and as i gave him back his coat and his ring, i wished him the same. when we got to the final station, we hugged and went our separate ways once again. my friends were standing there, waiting to take me home. i told them how i had been engaged for a few hours, not to my boyfriend, but to a stranger i had met on the train. he may never know how much this meant to me, but somehow, i think he does.

Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.  – Victor Hugo

 

134 responses »

  1. Usually when I stop to read to the end on a lot of things lately, i am disappointed. I wasn’t here. It was so sweet. Makes you realize we all have opportunities and can touch a life if just by stopping to listen.

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  2. Beautiful story and beautiful moment in life. Meeting strangers can be exhilarating. I’m always the weirdo striking up a conversation on a plane, train, in a line. I’ve met very interesting people. An old Dutch couple told me their life story and offered me a place to stay if I was ever in the Netherlands. I have never been, but they sent me a postcard wishing me well and saying hello. Life allows us to cross paths with people we were meant to meet. Sometimes we need to slow down and allow ourselves to just say hi.

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  3. the bitter sweet realization that we are not meant to be this someone we think we are can be a very hard pill to swallow. you seem to have done it with a grace rarely seen. I love this sharing very much.

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  4. What a beautiful, beautiful example of fate and kindness. Isn’t it amazing, that in our times of need and when we feel so alone, the right person enters our lives at just the right moment. How special that it was a mutual gift as well.I would love to reblog this if it’s okay with you. Thank you for giving me hope and a smile on a day when I’m not in the greatest mood ♥️

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  5. That’s a beautiful memory. It’s interesting how fate seems to know the perfect time to introduce us to someone. But then again, maybe it’s just that some people know how to make the best of what fate has to offer.

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  6. What a beautiful story. And it made me realize that, while I’ve met memorable characters on trains and on busses, never once have I met one on a plane. Too fast. Too antiseptic!

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  7. What an amazing story Beth. Sitting – wanting to be alone to gather thoughts. Then along comes a complete stranger, who chats and makes you forgot your own inner sadness and think of his. For him to put his jacket over you and the ring and the granola bar – leaves me speechless – how sweet and thoughtful and I am glad you experienced this as part of the trip that broke your heart. xx

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    • i love those encounters ) we were just what we needed at the right time and place. thanks for reading and following, i look forward to reading more from you – beth

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  8. This was a wonderful story and this man was a godsend! You were his godsend, too! (Not necessarily God, but coincidence, luck, karma…) You wove this train ride trip with such gentle, caring details and memories, too! “Two wounded hearts.” Loved it! Hugs, Robin

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  9. Wow – sometimes strangers can make the biggest difference in our lives. Your story is a lesson to never underestimate the power of kindness. Thank you for sharing it!

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  10. What an amazing story! At first I thought it might have been one of those feel good fictional stories (I still like those) but this actually happened? Wow…just restores faith in our connectedness. Thank you for sharing that! Makes my heart happy.

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  11. Some call it fate, or circumstance, or serendipity, and all those can put two souls in the same spot at the same time, but it’s up to those souls open themselves to the opportunity.

    I once held a woman’s hand on a plane during a rough flight. She was convinced we were going to die. She held tight, and kept her face on my shoulder during the worst. Then we said awkward goodbyes as her significant other picked her up in the terminal.

    beth, you are an incredible storyteller. I’m grateful this happened to someone who could share it this way.

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    • yes, exactly eli. and i can so picture you doing that on that flight. it was really kind of you and i’m sure you helped her immeasurably. thank you very much for the compliment, from one storyteller to another )

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  12. Pingback: Journey to Now, Again – Elizabeth Marro's Blog

  13. the kindness of strangers – its a strange phenomenon but very real – im so sorry for your sadness vis a vis your boyfriend – but we live in a world where love is all around us if we let it be – dont we ?! x

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    • yes, i think some could think so, but as you know , these things really happen. i have never forgotten it, nor have the friends who picked me up at the train station on that amazing day.

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  14. Hi Beth, your gravatar pic keeps popping up in mutual bloggers we follow and I thought it was time to say hello! I read this post that someone else had reflagged (I don’t remember who) and loved it. What a great experience with a stranger. 🙂

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