The Original Stranger

I’ve been in a bit of a funk for the past several weeks. Some of it boredom, some of it drama, and some just dissatisfaction with life and lack of faith that God has it covered. Introduce spontaneous trip to Colorado to visit my best friend and her family. Hello mountains, hello peacefulness and oh…hello me.

I have an uncanny ability to get drawn into deep conversations with complete strangers. Often times they occur with full on crazies who feel the need to tell me all their problems, neurosis, and/or chase me down the street for half a cigarette. But every once in a while I’ll catch a “normal.” Someone who just feels the need to open up and share an amazing story with me. I was in Wendy’s with Cathy and the kiddos. I had the kids sit down while I ordered. A man standing behind me commented on the kids and how cute they are. My first thought was “Here we go. Just be polite until the crazy man walks away.” During the course of our conversation (which lasted quite awhile, because it was literally the slowest Wendy’s I have ever been in) the man began to tell me about his early years in school and how corporate discipline was widely used. He then mentioned that this was worse when he was overseas. I asked him where he came from and he said Hungary. This caught my attention immediately because I have cousins who are Hungarian. My aunt fled Hungary as a child, with her parents and brother, at the start of the Hungarian revolution. When I mentioned this, he became quite excited. He left Hungry as a teenager. Alone. At thirteen years old, he slipped onto a freighter, leaving behind his parents and 7 brothers and sisters. He was thirteen. When I was thirteen, I was spending summers on the swim team and going to camp. He was working in a stone yard breaking rocks with a sledgehammer.

He would never see his mother again. I asked him if he had been able to see his father and he said only once since he left his home. He flew his father out to the US. It did not go well. His father, having been raised exclusively in a communist nation, was convinced that the man was scheming to convince him that capitalism is better than communism. A routine trip to the supermarket turned into a full-blown fight. The father believed that his son had constructed an elaborate game which involved renting out a supermarket and hiring people to play different parts. After his father boarded the plane, he never saw him again.

He has since gone on to have five of his own children, who have children themselves. When my food came, he patted my shoulder, and thanked me for listening. We said goodbye. I am confident that I will never run into him again. But I learned his life story. In the middle of a Wendy’s. On a spur of the moment vacation.

And it puts my life in perspective. God had a plan for this strangers life. I only heard a part of it. And He has a plan for mine. It took a “random” meeting, with a complete stranger, far from home to remind me of it. I should have said thank you to him.

originally written on Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 2:45am

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