Recently, I visited one of my favourite breakfast restaurants in Timmins. I ordered my usual serving of eggs, sausage, home fries and toast along with a bottomless cup of coffee. I am still trying to watch my diet and this heavy morning meal is an indulgence that I take in from time to time.
I was happy to meet a familiar waitress and we talked for a few moments while I looked over the menu and I sipped on a fresh cup of coffee. This waitress is someone I have met many times over nine years. My first recollection of her was in another restaurant on the south end of the city and then when I had discovered another great place to eat I noticed she had taken employment there also.
Familiarity has its rewards. This bright lady has memorized my regular order of sausage and eggs: over hard with whole wheat toast. She makes me feel special. It feels good to be surrounded by people that have grown to know me as a regular customer in our little restaurant world.
In the middle of enjoying my meal, the familiar waitress is on her way out as she is changing shifts with another server in the restaurant. At the entrance as she is leaving, she waves good bye to her regular customers and is quickly on her way out. As she disappears down the sidewalk, I realize that as she leaves, I have no clue as to where she is off to or what her life is all about. Of course the same goes for me as she has no idea who I am or where I live.
I realize that, for most people in the city, this is what life is like. Every day, I share moments with people who work in restaurants, gas stations, retail stores and various offices. Although we really don’t have close ties there is something wonderful about greeting each other regularly and we are all considerate to each other. I grew up in a tiny and remote First Nation where everybody knew everything about everyone. My familiarity with people stretched back for generations. I am still adapting to the relatively new experience of living in cities and towns with large populations.
In small communities, people develop preconceived notions about who you are by the family you come from and its history in the community. Everyone knows who you are and what you are doing. People know when you are coming or going and at times life is like living in a fish bowl. There are many good things about being closely connected to the people around you. It feels good to wander around a community of family and friends.
There is a difficult side to this reality, however. Sometimes, I find it refreshing to visit places that I have never been to before where I can interact with people I have never met and that I will possibly never have the chance to see again. The incredible part is that, most of the time, these strangers treat me better than some of the people I have known all my life.
The more I travel and the more I interact with complete strangers, the more I enjoy meeting new people. I am also losing my fear of heading off to new places and expanding my horizons. At this point in my life I am starting to learn that these once-in-a-lifetime meetings with strangers are one-time opportunities. This fact gives me the incentive to make these meetings positive.
I continue to be apprehensive of new situations, cultures and traditions, but I am learning that most people are decent individuals eager to share a kind moment. I find hope in humanity through the kindness I receive from those I meet on my journey. No matter what colour, race, language or creed, I am always pleasantly surprised at the broad smiles and good wishes that come my way. We all have a lot more in common than we know.