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Connecting With Strangers

I've seen a lot of ugliness in the last year, and with both the physical and mental changes I've gone through, withdrawing from being social has been my way of protecting myself.

And despite the return of rising Covid numbers, I've been easing back into to society--not without some anxiety and apprehension, but nonetheless, I'm emerging with a little help from Gloria Estefan and her song Coming Out of the Dark. It's a timeless song really about finding your way back.

I say this because I had an encounter Saturday I will forever cherish, and reliving the moment brings happy tears to my eyes. Jimmy Buffett made a return to Indiana on July 10. It was the first concert at (and I will say Deer Creek) the Noblesville concert venue in over a year. I've seen Buffett some 20-30 times in my life, and not once did I ever get to sit in a seat I'd purchased. Actually, my pet peeve is being forced to stand when I've paid for a seat. Because of the chemo, I have nasty neuropathy in my feet, and I cannot stand for long periods of time. We decided to forgo the concert for that reason, and instead go and tailgate with friends before the show.

With the swarms of Parrotheads in all their regalia, the free food and drinks being offered, the music, and shenanigans brought back endearing memories of when life was simpler and normal. As the time neared for the venue to open, everything was packed up and was put away. We continued to visit as the line for entrance stretched nearly two football fields, and our friends were waiting a bit before getting in line. After a while, I could no longer stand, and sitting on the ground got to be uncomfortable as well. I told my husband I was going to the car to wait and he should stay and visit some more.

For someone who can read maps upside down and navigate just about anywhere, I for reasons unknown, cannot remember to make a point of learning where the car is parked. My husband said B5. So off I went looking forward to resting my feet. Fifteen minutes later, I was still wandering. We were not in B5. My parking lot markers are like "There's white pickup parked next to us." White pickups and maroon Jeeps make up about an astonishing amount of the total vehicles in any given parking situation.

On the verge of a breakdown, I backtracked and found my husband talking to a group of four people still waiting to leave their party site and go into the concert. He couldn't find the car either and had been talking to these people long enough that he'd told them about my cancer. I knew this because as soon as he introduced me, one young guy in his twenties came and gave me a huge bear hug. He was drunk but his gesture was genuine, and I am usually a little disinclined about strangers giving me hugs.

This time. This time was so different. I didn't stiffen. I didn't pull away. I needed what he offered. After a year of uncertainty, isolation, and the lack of physical contact, the touch of a stranger had a healing effect. The more we talked, the more extraordinary the moment became. The father of the group ran a medical care facility for children in Logansport, Indiana. He said the job is what gets him through the day-to-day of losing his son to suicide. His daughter is a nurse there.

As I spoke to the other daughter, I learned she had a baby in December and coded on the table. She had to be Lifelined to Indianapolis in order to save her life Her grandmother had breast cancer 12 years ago. The cancer has returned, and her grandmother has decided not to treat it.

We all have something.

Before we left, we hugged each other. I don't even know their names, but we connected as human beings as we should. We all have a story. We all have pain, and we find a way to come out of the dark.

I had a great time partying before the show, but the best part of the night was sharing with four people I likely will never see again, and I am thankful.

Jimmy Buffett really does have an impact on people's lives. Maybe in odd ways, but he still brought us together when we needed it.

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