The Nice Thing About Strangers

Non-Fiction Short Stories. Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion. Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Photo Op

The old man wears a straw hat shaped like a cowboy hat. It has something like a badge at the front. He wears sunglasses that are a cross between aviators … Continue reading

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Still Friendly After All These Years

The elderly woman is perfectly coordinated–a pink dress, a pale blue sweater, a pink and blue necklace, blue eyes, gray hair to her chin. Her daughter is her accessory, tucked … Continue reading

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The Urge to Be Someplace Else

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me … Continue reading

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Waiting on the 13A

A woman with a long, swinging skirt walks with two heaps of lettuce across her arm as though she’s carrying bouquets of flowers, like a runner-up beauty queen making off with the … Continue reading

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To Be Grateful

I’m waiting in line for three ticket machines in the metro station. Of course, I get to mine, and it doesn’t take cash. Or cards. So I turn, tugging my … Continue reading

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Escalator Kissing

The man and woman have grey hair and matching gold necklaces. They hold hands. People rarely walk down the escalator stairs in this Budapest metro station, as the angle is … Continue reading

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The Hunger

There is no great difference in reality between one country and another, because it is always people you meet everywhere. They may look different or be dressed differently, they may … Continue reading

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“At the High School Dance Recital,” A Guest Post from Kim Karras

Kim has a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. I love this story in part because I can hear Kim’s voice in it, even though we haven’t been … Continue reading

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So So Beautiful

The girl sits upright in her stroller. Mom pushes and chats with her, but the little girl doesn’t lean back and relax. She’s watching the crowds coming and going in … Continue reading

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The Ones Writing to Me

After a very nice note from a woman reading my book, I think of Merton and how he makes me laugh. “People write with great simplicity to me as though … Continue reading

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Beauty (On the Record)

Two boys of perhaps ten or eleven are simultaneously struck by a vision. They turn into elderly men, gasping, bringing their upturned fingers together in front of their faces like … Continue reading

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The View from Here

The little boy sits on a gargantuan chair. It is a huge display to show the craftsmanship of the maker. The chair presides over the airport food court. Parents have … Continue reading

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“The Winter of Our Discontent” in August

See you Monday for a happy tale from the Ataturk airport, Istanbul. For now, a few lines from John Steinbeck’s “The Winter of Our Discontent,” which I just devoured.🙂 Three … Continue reading

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Just a Little Reading Break

The impresario Seth Godin said, “Many people start a blog, but very few people ever finish one.” I don’t think I’m finished yet. I don’t quite know how to explain … Continue reading

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Slow and Steady

A slow-moving service cart transporting two elderly men in polo shirts crosses Terminal A. The driver is surely their contemporary. They all try to sit up, gazing out from under … Continue reading

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“Of course, they aren’t always funny.”

Mom, Dad, two sons and Grandpa are waiting for their flight. They are two hours early as Grandpa apparently requested. Grandpa reads his “New Yorker” magazine calmly. The boys writhe, … Continue reading

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Prayers for Paul

The man sits quietly by the window through the flight. As we grow close to landing, my 9-year old niece strikes up a conversation with her neighbor. This is a sure sign … Continue reading

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Lady on the Train (A Guest Post from Clayton Lovett)

A little gift from Brazil via Clayton Lovett: Adjectives to describe the people on the train were (probably) things like: healthy, sick, recently-lost-a-loved-one, pregnant, in-love, carrying-a-terminal-illness, happy, mentally ill, mentally … Continue reading

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Yep, I Was Just About To Do That

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
She’s in elementary school, somewhere near the middle of it, perhaps. Her hair is bright blonde and neatly trimmed. She’s sitting by…

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The Courage to Be

Lodged in your heart is the power to walk into somebody’s life and give him or her what the bright light Paul Tillich called “the courage to be.” Can you … Continue reading

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Please Be Seated

The mother, her four teenage daughters, and her preschool son have seated themselves completely at random near the back of the plane. A couple, whose seats the teens have occupied, … Continue reading

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We’re People-Watching People

His black work shoes are worn on the back at the outside of the heels. It’s such a pronounced missing piece, like the heels were carved into crescents. However, as … Continue reading

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Upward

For Holy Communion, people shuffle single-file toward the front. An altar server’s little brother has just cleared the front pews and spots his sister up there. She is seated near … Continue reading

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11.49 miles (Guest Post by Andrew Boge )

I met a remarkable young man on my tour last month. Andrew is a great audience member, a thoughtful human being, and a bright spirit. He’s a student at Hastings … Continue reading

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The Tan Man

He is glazed to the color of carrot cake, but still seeking the sun. The resident leaving the senior center apartment complex is shirtless, but he wears khaki shorts and … Continue reading

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Super

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
For a 6 am flight, there is a nice camaraderie in the airport. People seem too groggy to have their defenses up.…

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Another Route

My taxi driver waves me off when I try to help put my suitcase in the trunk. “It’s heavy, really heavy,” I warn in Turkish. He tosses it in and … Continue reading

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Let it Roll

For the final day of a cross-country trip, I had to drive across all of Kansas and through half of Colorado. Just after leaving Kansas City, a motorcycle passed me. … Continue reading

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Wrong Turns

“I don’t mind if I make mistakes. It may be that in one of the blind alleys I may find something to my purpose.” –(Larry.) The Razor’s Edge. W. Somerset … Continue reading

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The Flower Reverie

He sits on the bench outside the nursing home. He has long white hair and a full white beard. Naturally, he resembles Santa Claus. He also resembles a man at … Continue reading

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Deli Girl

She is standing by the clear glass display and browsing the various meats. There are two women standing nearby, but after a moment it becomes clear that the girl is … Continue reading

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Vitamin Quiet

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
I’ve got the same driver on my way back to Croatia. We catch the other’s glance in the mirror above his seat.…

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Mrs. P

Today I went to an assisted living home to visit my first grade teacher. We reunited after over 30 years. The facility is in a lovely location with views of … Continue reading

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Birdwatching

“Tavuskuşu var, tavuskuşu var!” The little girl is squealing over the presence of peacocks in a small aviary near the restaurant. Her calling spooks four white doves, who flap into … Continue reading

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Golden

They sit on the bench with their ice cream cones. She swings her legs as she sits. He hunches under his baseball cap. Without comment, they watch a man who … Continue reading

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The Trigger Man (A Guest Post by Clayton Lovett)

My friend CL is insightful, clever and a gifted storyteller. He’s also been following and supporting the blog since the beginning. Since he’s living in Brazil these days, I asked … Continue reading

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A Nice Lady

At a gas station in Missouri, two hitchhikers approach me while I am filling up. They are in their 20s, with backpacks and a cardboard sign. They ask if I’m … Continue reading

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The Reading

I have an awesome story from a gas station today, but I am absolutely exhausted. Nothing I am typing is legible–so you know that’s bad news. This week, I wrangled … Continue reading

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Blameless

Passing the produce market, a woman in a pink coat walks alongside her preschool child, and calls over her shoulder to her own mother who has stopped at the tempting … Continue reading

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So when you’re out to dinner and…

As their parents sat at the table and talked, the children kept running around, hiding underneath and shouting at one another. These people’s happiness pleased Mevlut. Human beings were made … Continue reading

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The Vocation

As people merge into a line to board our airplane, a Grandmother steps up and then steps back. She asks the boy behind me if he and I are waiting … Continue reading

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Street Charades

The man is in a beret and a sweater-jacket with a high neck and a vaguely American Southwest pattern. It gets my attention because I’m in Budapest, Hungary, quite a … Continue reading

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Your Easter Dresses, Love Grandma.

Originally posted on The Nice Thing About Strangers:
Grandma is buying the girls a pair of Easter dresses–the fluffier the better. Her two granddaughters stand close and grin. They love…

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Where the Heart Is

Someone has let loose a dozen small red, glittering hearts made of some sort of plastic sheeting. They might be an accompaniment to a St. Valentine’s Day package, but I’m … Continue reading

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Like a Shepherd

The little boy with blue-framed glasses rushes to the train with his mother. Then he turns in a shock as he boards. His father is not behind him. He’s looking … Continue reading

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Be Nice To Yourself (As Well)

It’s more like: if you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable … Continue reading

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Still Grinning

Sorry, I’m traveling today, but I am still beaming from a comment by a reader, 8 year-old Max. While I appreciate all of my readers, I must admit, every time … Continue reading

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