On my second day living here in France, I went walking with a couple of Norwegian folks I had met the previous day. It was really the first time I had seen the sunlight in a while – I had spent the previous afternoon in a jet-lagged mega-sleep – and I didn’t have much else to do.
We walked and walked, talked and talked. No matter what we were saying, a little bit of the other culture seeped through. And after a while, long story short, we ended up running into some strangers and moving them into their new apartment. We were foreigners, a little bored and clearly the sturdiest gentlemen walking the streets that day. Six floors with about 15 bags are enough for another day of hibernation.
But it was one of the coolest little offshoots I’ve had in the recent past. Just one of those pure moments – people helping people. Afterward, we sat in their tiny new apartment, shared cookies and chatted in iffy English. One of the girls hung pictures of friends while the other pulled out some of her favorite treats from the Netherlands. We talked for a half hour or so – why we were in town, where we were from – and it was enough to give a good glimpse into each other’s stories.
It’s hard to quantify it, but I think these little events are what keep society going – we need more face-to-face interaction in this world, more random encounters with strangers to understand each other a little better. There’s so much importance in talking face-to-face. It’s something we take for granted – sitting down, looking each other in the eye, gesturing, changing faces. You just share more with a person when you interact personally.
The majority of communication is nonverbal – which is good, because I wouldn’t have a place to live here if it weren’t for my super-Italian hand gestures during apartment visits. That’s something you just can’t text (yet).
And it’s even more important when you have that helping hand to give. The interaction is half the work. What’s the value in helping if you don’t give a little bit of yourself in the process? If you don’t tell a story, share a cookie or two? It’s the only way to understand how we function together, whether it’s similarities or differences, and it’s the emotional aspect of giving that is never talked about.
It’s all pretty neat. I can only hope to have more of these little mutual “elevator speech” encounters (even if it means I have to climb the stairs again).