I took a short story writing class in college. One of my favorite exercises involved the invasion of others' privacy. We were tasked with eavesdropping on conversations around us and taking notes on dialogue in order to better our own ability to recreate conversation on the page.
Confession: since then, I eavesdrop all the time. I love eavesdropping.
I regularly work at coffee shops with my headphones in, but no music playing - this way I can listen to the table behind me talk about how much they hate their neighbor, or how cold the belly jelly was at their sonogram earlier that day.
You'd be surprised what people will say in public. They'll say pretty much anything. I once heard a brother and sister squeal with laughter when they realized they both had a crush on the same high school teacher. They called him Dr. Delicious.
I was having coffee last weekend and there was an older woman sitting behind me reading. A younger man walked up to her and said, "Hey, um - excuse me. You don't know me, but...I heard you speak at a workshop recently and I have to tell you, I've been thinking about what you said ever since."
She invited him to sit down and they had a nice chat about her business and the way she's built her life around the work she loves to do. When they parted ways, she stood and gave him her business card and a hug, telling him - "You email me anytime."
Don't we all have a few, "You don't know me, but..." people in our lives?
I hope I'm that person for someone. I'd like to be that person for a lot of people.
There's a beauty to quiet, deliberate work - the work before the work - this is certain. It's also clear to me after witnessing the interaction between the woman and young man that there's another beauty which arises from our willingness to put our work into the world - so it might shift the way someone sees their environment and interprets their experiences.
The way we change ourselves - and one another - might be a dance between our own solitary internal work, and the decision to fearlessly show others who we are and what we see.