One of my favorite little, and often forgotten about, stories in the Book of Genesis (in the Bible) is the story right before Joseph goes to look for his brothers. Joseph encounters a man, a stranger in the fields and asks the stranger if the stranger has seen his brothers. This stranger gives Joseph the answer which leads Joseph to his destiny.
I always bring up this story when I discuss with people the importance of getting out and being part of the world. You will meet people who may become lifelong friends or acquaintances, yet at the same time some of the most interesting experiences and stories will come from fleeting encounters with strangers.
In college I took a bus out to Cincinnati to attend a conference. In the Cleveland terminal a woman handed me her baby and told me not to go anywhere while she went to the bathroom. I had the baby in my arms and the woman’s bag sitting at my feet for what then felt like the longest five minutes of my life. Then this past summer at a local concert venue I had a woman sit next to me only to be picked up by two police officers for larceny about two minutes after she sat down right next to me. The whole encounter probably took no more than five minutes but again, it will be a story I will have the rest of my life.
I’ve had many more encounters like this. Some have led later to relationships when I’ve met the person again and a bond is formed. However, for the most part, I hold the minutes where that fleeting encounter has changed my world and many times my view of the world. I wouldn’t have it any other way.