August 7, 2012
One Sunday, a number of months ago, I was enjoying a beautiful Spring afternoon with my boys at Seward Park. We had walked the perimeter road, with its pebbly beaches and views across Lake Washington, and ended at the playground. As the boys romped and climbed, I settled down on one of the benches to relax. After a moment or so, I caught the strains of a woman’s voice speaking a language I didn’t recognize. She was on the phone. I was curious as to what language she was speaking, but I had an insistent voice in my head telling me not to engage. It also didn’t seem right to launch into a conversation about my project, to someone who might not be interested and might even find it intrusive. I needed to turn The World in My Backyard project off, the voice said, for just one day. I wanted to enjoy watching and play with my kids. And, to be honest, because the woman was bundled up in a long down coat, which seemed excessive for that time of year, and also appeared to be older than me, I made the assumption that we didn’t have much in common. But as I overheard a little girl about my son’s age wave to this woman and call out “Mom!” and then watch the mother wave back with a glowing smile, I changed my mind. I thought to myself that I needed to get a little out of my box and just say hello. I think people would be surprised to learn that, even though I am definitely an extrovert, extending myself beyond what is familiar does take work. I make initial judgments of who I think a person is, just by their appearance. It is not right, but I do it. Every time I extend beyond the assumption/judgment view and actually talk to a “stranger” they never are who I assumed them to be.
After the opening “hellos” we launched into great conversation that left us both wanting to meet again. She quickly agreed to participate with The World in My Backyard. I cannot wait to learn more about Norwegian born, Solvi, a mother of two, a filmmaker and an entrepreneur. Not only did I learn a little about Solvi that day, but I fascinating antidote about Seattle. She shared with me that the zip code we were in, 98144, is the most diverse zip code in the country.
Every day, I am learning that each time I push myself outside my comfort zone or pre-judgments, whether it involves meeting someone for the first time or trying something new, the results are always positive. I will never forget driving from away from Seward Park ecstatically telling the boys all about this fascinating woman I just met and, had I followed my initial instincts, how I almost missed out on the opportunity.