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The Simple Encounters Matter

You’re incredibly beautiful. Did you know that?”

I looked up, very much startled. A man I’d never met was smiling down at me with a dreamy, somewhat wistful expression. We were in the Crayola museum in the Mall of America, and I was seated at a table with my five sons, working on an art project. The man didn’t seem threatening, but my mind raced to formulate an appropriate response to this outrageous opener.

Noticing my discomfort, he shook himself a bit, as if he were waking up. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Maybe that was inappropriate. I wasn’t hitting on you or anything, I didn’t mean it like that. I was just watching you play with your kids, and you all looked so beautiful. It just felt like . . . maybe I should tell you?” Now he looked troubled.

I thanked him then, genuinely touched, and asked him about himself. He answered vaguely and turned the question back to me. “What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m a writer. I write articles for magazines and websites and things.”

“Wow! Is there a special school for that?”

“Not exactly. I studied philosophy, actually. But teaching didn’t work out that well with my family and all, so I started writing for money instead.”

“But you taught in university once? That’s awesome. I tried to go to college, but while I was there I was abducted by aliens, and they messed up my brain so that now I can’t remember anything. I really liked college though; it was fun to learn things. I’m sad I couldn’t finish.”

He certainly looked sad. It was clear that he was not joking with me. I thought for a moment. “Well,” I finally said, “there are lots of ways to learn things, even if you don’t have much money or memory. You should never feel like you’ve missed your last chance to learn something new.”

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