I recently had a bizarre moment at the grocery store. As I was reaching for my debit card to pay, the man behind the counter looked straight into my eyes and said, “Are you living your dream?” I was totally caught off guard, and I stammered something like, “I’m not sure.” He smiled and pointed towards my hands. I’d forgotten that my wallet had been stolen recently and I’d been using a temporary credit card holder made out of recycled materials that had the words “LIVE YOUR DREAM” printed on the back.

He was just reading something out loud, but it gave me a jolt. I walked home from the grocery store deep in thought, puzzling over the nature of the question. Am I living my dream? It’s become such a common phrase, it’s almost lost all meaning. I think of it as the question that launched a thousand Pinterest boards.

Ultimately, I decided not to sweat the question itself. I’m not someone who has a clear vision, a clear dream. If anything, what I have is more like a literal dream – a collage of somewhat vague images, sensations, and emotions directed towards my future, but with no overarching narrative. And I’m pretty okay with that.

What I do want to focus on is the interaction with the checkout guy. It felt like such a rare moment! How often does the checkout guy ask an existential question that makes you re-evaluate your entire life? I honestly hadn’t even considered the question that I had been carrying around in my own pocket until the surprise of having a stranger pose it shocked me into a reflective mood.

It was a good reminder to treat everyone we interact with as a potential teacher. Every person who crosses our path has a unique profile of life experiences, challenges, and ideas, many of which would be relevant to us if we knew about them. Each potential encounter is a happy accident waiting to happen.

My challenge for the day: talk to strangers.

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