Helen Jean Wils
Vacuuming a Pool with a Perfect Stranger
Updated: Dec 22, 2021
“Meeting a stranger can be totally fleeting and meaningless, for example, unless you enter the individual’s world by finding out at least one thing that is meaningful to his or her life and exchange at least one genuine feeling. Tuning in to others is a circular flow: you send yourself out toward people; you receive them as they respond to you.” -- Deepak Chopra
I can go out to dinner and learn the waitress' entire life story over a series of short conversations scattered among water refills, dessert orders, and the check. I can understand a person's fears and failures from standing at the grocery checkout with them and talking for five minutes. I can meet a new neighbor at the mailbox and they'll tell me what inspires them and gives them life.
I am either incredibly disarming or possess CIA-level questioning techniques, or both, but I will get to know you in a flash. I will also remember most of what you say. I love people's stories and I have no qualms sharing my own. Human connection is powerful and softening. I believe with my whole heart that there could be no two enemies in this world if they just sat down, one on one, and shared their sacred tomes.
Today, at the pool, I met our new technician whose name is John. I will remember this because my dad and brother share his name. Here's the rest of what I learned about John in 15 minutes as I wrangled three water-logged kids and he did his work:
John was born in Saint James, NY. I know this place well as I grew up nearby; moreover, I find it coincidental that my parents now live in St. James, NC. He and his wife raised four children (boy, girl, boy, girl). His wife was the head cook at Commack School District and he retired from Verizon a couple of years ago. Before full retirement, they bought a home in Sneads Ferry, NC and his wife lived there alone and hated it. Once John was fully retired, they moved to Leland where she now plays pickle-ball and mahjong and line dances. She just got called to be an assistant cook for Brunswick County Schools and she accepted the position because hours are 7 to 1 and don't interfere with her activities. Oh, she also works at the new amphitheater in Wilmington handing out shirts; she got lucky, her friends have to endure the heat.
John couldn't stand being idle, so he took up this gig. His youngest daughter, 22, now lives with him - she's a recent college graduate (He wasn't sure of the acronym for her degree in environmental studies, so he just called her a 'greenie weenie' LOL). She's waiting for her boyfriend to come home from his deployment in the Marines. John and his wife are kind enough to let him live under their roof, too.
I liked meeting John today and I hope I see him again. I could have sat in silence as he did his work, or gave a quick hello, but this way is much better for me.
My girls liked him, too, because he showed them how to vacuum a pool.