I seem to manage to find connections with people wherever I am in my life and often the most unlikely places : for work I was interviewing a millionaire about the cars that he owns and the choices that he makes. Throughout the interview he had been sexist, arrogant and patronising towards me and I was trying hard to take it in my stride and to keep professional. After talking to me on the telephone for 90 minutes, I offered him his cash incentive , suggesting that he might like to donate it to charity . He asked that we give his money to Headways, which was not a charity that I am familiar with.
So I asked what Headways do and he explained that it was a charity for brain injured children, he added that he had a son with brain damage, so of course, I added that I did too. We then had the most meaningful part of the conversation for another ten minutes : he explained that his 29 year old son was run over by a car when he was just six years old. He told me something of their struggles and warned me how challenging my life would be when Joshua reached his 20s.
All of the previous posturing and arrogance fell away and we became two parents with our brain damaged sons in common,, sharing our experiences. My opinion of him completely changed once he let me see his vulnerable side. I knew how he felt, how he just wanted to hide. I started to feel sorry for this millionaire, as all his money, houses, flash cars and yachts could not protect him from the tragedy that befell his family. I am certain that he would have swapped it all to re-enact the day when his six year old son was hurt. That incident had driven him to succeed as an entrepreneur and he claimed that it was all to leave his vulnerable son, well provided for.
I had no idea when I began the phone call that it would end in this way. This type of situation often happens to me to be honest. That in sharing with strangers, I often find a connection : I made a good friend at Joshua’s previous school, which started when I spontaneously sent her a happy photograph of her son that I had taken at a school event that I attended. She responded with a thank you note which included her telephone number, we spoke and made several connections, including a shared passion for helping our sons to reach their full potential and also an ability to talk a lot and to listen well. That contact was over five years ago now and now I count her amongst one of my close friends and we grabbed a half hour chat just last week, and we can cover a lot of ground in a short space of time.
I do not go through life seeking out these conversations with strangers, but I find that they find me and when they do, I embrace them, as we never know where these chance conversations will lead.