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Human-to-Human Conversation

Early in the day, during my volunteer shift at Karma Kitchen, an elder woman came in -- she might have been the first guest -- and was seated in the far corner. After her server had greeted her and given her water and a mango lassi, I tagged her with a handmade smile button. 

She hadn't smiled much, but she did smile for a second when seeing the button. I asked if she'd like me to pin it on her lapel and she said no, that she would "fix" it when she got home. I visited her two other times -- she was there for quite a long time, perhaps 1 1/2 hours. 

On my third visit, I asked her if she knew that the theme of the day was Smile. She said she didn't smile much ... that smiles needed to be genuine. Thus began a conversation that roved around from authentic smiles to the politics of the day. I listened a lot but I also engaged in conversation. I especially did not try to get her to smile. I let her be herself. We talked for a fairly long time, then I had to get back to work. The restaurant was busy. 

A little later in the day, I had a similar experience with a man.  During check in, I commented that I had engaged with two people who dined alone and seemed to be in a dark place. 

In both cases I felt we'd connected and had a real human-to-human conversation. The volunteer sitting next to me asked if one of them was the white-haired lady in the corner. I said yes and she said that the woman never talks to anyone. 

Later, as we were readying to leave, the volunteer who was the server for that woman gave me a "You Are Loved" card and said that the white-haired woman, on her way out of the restaurant, asked her to give it to me.

--Marianna on Dec 12, 2011

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