Photo by Morella Devost
By Morella Devost
The first Wednesday in March this year, I treated myself to lunch at Stone Soup, one of my favorite places in Burlington. As I sat at the communal table, I ran a private little social experiment: I left my phone in my bag and waited to see who might join me for lunch. I left the chair directly in front of me available and eagerly waited to find out who would be my new lunchtime friend.
A gentleman in a gray pinstriped suit joined me shortly afterwards. I was curious. Who might he be? What did he do for work that requires a suit in Burlington? What stories might he have about his day?
Alas, I didn’t get to ask any of these questions. No sooner had his derriere hit the seat, the cell phone came out. And for the next twenty minutes, I ate in silence, looking at a man flip through Facebook on his phone. No exchange. No stories; only a new insight on the human connections we miss when our faces are glued to our phones.
A few weeks later I traveled to Ireland for twelve days by myself. The purpose of the trip was to have a mini writer’s retreat, and enjoy living like a local. I brought with me the same openness to connecting with the random human souls I’d have the opportunity to meet there.
What unfolded over those twelve days was the stuff of magic, of synchronicities, of kindness, and gifts from the universe in countless forms. And they were all delivered through the human beings with whom I connected throughout my trip. Every single one.
I chose to stay at an actual bed and breakfast rather than an AirBnB apartment, precisely so I’d have the opportunity to talk to people. I’d be more likely to get the insider’s scoop, or a suggestion for an activity that might make my trip extraordinary. Every morning, I got to connect with not only Kathriona and Paddy, the owners of the B&B, but also the various guests who came and went during my week-long stay. I learned of their trips, their loves, their origins. They shared ideas of places I might like. We laughed. We made every morning delightful for each other.
But the most magical experience was what unfolded after my horseback-riding outing got cancelled at the last minute. It was the one and only thing I had actually planned. Aside from that, my stay consisted of daily writing sessions at a cafe, walks, and dinner at my favorite pub. I had been looking forward to that beachside ride all week. Needless to say, I was hugely disappointed when it got cancelled.
Kathriona and Paddy both began to offer other alternatives. They were eager for me to find a plan B because I had shared my excitement with them. But all of the options were a long drive away and I didn’t have a car.
And then I mentioned I’d seen a sign for a small equestrian center not far from town. I wondered out loud if they might offer rides. No sooner had I mentioned it, Kathriona exclaimed, “That’s Róisín, my friend! I will text her.” She ran into the kitchen and came a few minutes later to let me know it was all settled. There was a place for me in the group if I wanted to go, and she would drive me there herself. After the ride, Róisín’s husband would bring me back to town.
I was stunned. Overjoyed. And also in a little bit of disbelief. With zero effort on my part, a whole collective of “strangers” were all coming together to create a delightful experience for me. And I received it graciously.
To tell you that the ride was perfection would be an understatement. The ride, coupled with the whole way in which it came about, was pure magic. I felt as though the universe had provided this extraordinary gift for me and I allowed myself to receive it. I also believe that my immense delight and gratitude, which I expressed to everyone involved, was also uplifting for them.
They gifted me and I gifted them with the kinds of miracles that are possible through human connection. The kinds of miracles that can only take place when we share ourselves, our dreams, and our disappointments: the miracle of allowing people to do kind things for us. And the miracle of deep, heartfelt gratitude.
In Ireland, I learned to connect with strangers like never before. I asked for their names. I told them about my book. I shared my mini-adventures in their town. I chose to eat at the same pub in Clifden five nights in a row. Rather than seeking a taste of every experience in town, I became a “regular” at the spots I did visit. And the rewards were many.
I once heard Claire Zammit—a coach, teacher and spiritual leader—say, “miracles come through other people.”
Indeed. Miracles do not fall down from the sky or materialize out of thin air in front of us. They will come in the hands of other people. In order for that to happen, we must be open to receive from them. But even before that, we need to share ourselves in a genuine, open-hearted connection. Seeking nothing, simply appreciating the person.
To establish the connection that creates the ripe conditions for these human miracles, we need to be the ones showing up in deep appreciation for the human across the table from you. In every exchange. In every passing glance. You never know what you will be able to gift someone, or who will be the one to give to you.
My “miracles” in Ireland were of a delightful kind. But the principles are exactly the same for the miracles that might solve a problem for someone, offer comfort or hope, and even save a life.
At Kripalu Yoga Center, a quote inside a stairwell reads: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Perhaps by showing up with interest and an open heart, it’ll be you offering a miracle to someone else.
I’m sure you’ll agree: our troubled world is in need of more miracles. So perhaps you’ll consider joining me in putting the phone down from time to time, and getting curious about the people you randomly meet. We can all be miracle workers.