(Don’t) talk to strangers?

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I met these friends just two days before our adventure to Gatineau Park

Every little kid knows the rule growing up: don’t talk to strangers. And fair enough! The world is a dangerous place. Kids are vulnerable. You never know people’s true intentions. However as we get older, the narrative continues. Especially as a girl, I am continually encouraged to keep my guard up around people I just met, not to trust too quickly. Stranger danger becomes a way of life, a way of looking at the world.

While we definitely need to be thoughtful, wise and aware, I think that the intense and immediate distrust of strangers, the assumption that people are bad or dangerous until proven otherwise, is a communal mindset that drives us towards a more individualistic and frankly, more boring society. As children, yes, a blanket rule of thumb is required for safety. But as adults? I would argue that we all could use some more stranger “danger” in our lives. Not literal danger y’all, just a couple steps outside our comfort zones will do!

Choosing to interact with people you don’t know in a genuine and engaged way brings so much joy and interest to our day to day lives. It teaches teaches us about what true hospitality looks like and helps foster an encompassing sense of community that humanizes the “other”.

Friends have, I’m sure, heard me say it before, I may have even written it in the blog, that “strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet”. I don’t say that to be naïve. I’m not assuming everyone will like me and I’m not disregarding the fact that there are indeed dangerous people out there with malicious intentions. However, that is not the majority. Everyone you have ever known was a stranger at some point. Maybe you were introduced by a friend or had a class together and you got to know each other in what is societally considered a safe space.

But

Who’s to say that guy reading a book in the park isn’t also going to be super cool and share your love of skiing?

Unless you ask her, how will you know that the women sitting next to you on the bus has walked the entire Great Wall of China or that she has her pilots license or that she and her husband have the best love story you’ve never heard?

If you don’t talk to strangers you may never hear why someone would want to be vegan or how one goes about building their own sailboat or what it’s like to work in a brewery or what it’s like to be a diplomat in Syria. My parents always told me, “you can’t do everything”. They were right! But SOMEONE out there has done everything. Don’t you want to hear their stories?

Aside from being purely interesting, it also teaches us how to love more fully. Inviting someone into your life and into your space isn’t always easy and it may require a little bit of sacrifice. But choosing community and choosing hospitality is SO WORTH IT.

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In the woods, exploring with Remi, Jess and Mike

As many of you probably read last week I ended up going to Montréal by myself. While we’re on the subject, thank you all so much for the support! I received countless messages of encouragement after my plans got flipped on their head. Spontaneity and risk taking y’all, it pays off.  Now I could have spent all weekend exploring by myself but where’s the fun in that? I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and so I couldn’t wait to get to know these people that had been unexpectedly thrown into my life. Getting to know people and hearing their life stories was one of my favourite parts about my trip to Iceland and I didn’t see why Montreal had to be any different!

 

I ended up meeting people from all over: Scotland, England, France, Germany, China, Australia, Brazil, etc. Everyone had different reasons for traveling, they were of all different ages and we spoke about all kinds of things, from music to politics to language learning to sailing to what it’s like to be Canadian. I wasn’t just talking to strangers. I made friends. 

And although it might have made my mom uneasy, I actually ended up inviting a couple of guys, David and Frank to stay at my apartment back in Ottawa with my roommates and I as they continued their Canadian adventures. You know what? It made my week having them there. Aside from the fact that they were completely respectable houseguests, they were also fun guys! We took them to see the light show on Parliament Hill, went to a karaoke bar, went to Blue’s fest and also just chatted. My roommates and I felt a little lonely when they finally moved onto the next leg of their trips, after each having spent 4 nights sleeping on our couch!

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David and Frank, our couch surfers. They were trying to see if the cucumber would scare our cat?

They were strangers. Who quickly became friends.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made fast friends about people and welcomed them into my life. There are a couple of people I’ve met through blogging/Youtube who I’ve actually met and hung out with in real life. There are a couple of girls I connected with on Facebook before coming to university who are still friends of mine. My host family in Switzerland were total strangers and they were some of the most wonderful and kind souls. Speaking of exchange, my current roommate is a girl I met in the airport on my way to Switzerland 3 years ago. Our other roommate was literally a stranger.  And you know what? I love them both so much it’s crazy.

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Roomie love

I’ve made friends with strangers in the park and random people on buses and in coffee shops. I’ve had fantastic conversations with people I will never see again. I’ve gotten to go on outdoor adventures with friends of friends of friends because I decided to talk to them.

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More strangers turned friends!

It’s scary to talk to strangers. They represent a total unknown. They could be rude. They could be having a bad day (in which case maybe a friendly banter with you is exactly what they need?). Maybe they re someone unlike anyone else you know – and maybe that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe they have incredible stories to tell and maybe you’ll find them incredibly boring.

But try. Invite someone to have coffee with you. Treat acquaintances with more warmth and hospitality than they are expecting. Smile at the man standing next to you at the cross walk. Take time to step outside of the individual bubble we’ve all taught ourselves to walk about in. Start seeing people as the complex, puzzling, dazzling pieces of art that they are. I promise that your life will become infinitely richer with each story you tell, each face that becomes familiar and each human being you choose to call friend instead of stranger.

Until next time

 

Sam

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Ready for an afternoon paddle – with a bunch of total “strangers” as per the usual!

 

 

 

 

 

40 Days of Friends

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In high school, if you were going to drive me home, you had to know one thing: my driveway was a place of heart to hearts. Friends would often take me home and end up still sitting in the car with me hours later, talking late into the night about school, family, friends, relationships, faith, the future or just about anything else we could think of. Even my mom came to know that if I wasn’t home when I had said I would be, she only to had to look out the front window and chances were, I’d be there, either talking to or listening to a friend. I’m not sure what it was (and still is) for me about talking in the car but I suspect it’s largely the total absence of distractions. No other people talking, nothing to get up and do, no where to go. For however long we sat there, we had each other’s total attention. And because catching a ride home each day was inevitable, these chats happened fairly regularly.

How often do we actually give people in our lives that kind of time to be heard? Not sure about anyone else but I am brutal at making time for people, especially if they aren’t in my pathway, if I don’t see them while just going through my everyday life. University is BUSY!  I have a full course load, I have a job that can be unpredictable, I volunteer, I’m on the executive of a club, I’m learning languages and studying and applying for summer jobs and going to church and, and, and, and. It’s not like I don’t want to connect with people, it’s just HARD to make TIME. If you know me, you probably know I’m really bad at keeping in touch with people. It’s not that I don’t love you, I’m just BUSY (or so I say, as I binge watch Netflix).

But here’s the deal ya’ll. Friends and relationships are one (of if not THE) most valuable gifts we have been given in this life. Whether it’s a sit down coffee date, a quick text to let someone know you are thinking about them, a FaceTime with those far away or a walking home and chatting instead of sticking your headphones in your ears, we all could do well to start finding and making time for those we love, those we miss and those we wish we could get to know better. Let’s be real, I bet you could name 5 people right now that you should reconnect with or catch up with.

SO. What am I going to do about it?

As you may or may not know, today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter. For Christians, it is a time of reflection and often a time when people give something up in order to better reflect on the gifts God’s given them. So this year, I’m giving up complacency in my relationships. I’m giving up excuses and I’m giving up my tendency to wave my hands and say “I just don’t have time”. The point of Lent is to, for 40 days, be super intentional about acknowledging Christ and preparing your heart for Easter. I believe that sacrificing my time and other hobbies to be present in the lives of those around me, and by taking the time to really see them for the person God created them to be is a great way to worship the Lord and acknowledge all He has blessed me with.  Friends are SUCH a blessing and I need to acknowledge that more by stepping outside of my own desires to watch Netflix or ignore people when I just don’t feel like socializing. We all want to feel noticed and appreciated and this season I want to make my people feel seen and heard.

SO. Here’s the plan.

40 days, 40 friends. 40 ways to celebrate the people I get to do life with.

Some of them will be family, some will be Ottawa friends and others old friends who live far away. Some will be acquaintances I’d like to know better and at least a couple will probably be total strangers. I want to see what happens when I intentionally acknowledge, appreciate, connect with, celebrate, communicate and love the people that God has placed in my life.

JOIN ME!! I’ve started making a list of those I want to connect with over the next month and a bit and I’d love if any of you wish to be a part of this adventure. Let me know if you’d like to connect. Whether you celebrate Lent or not, I think our friendships are so important to prioritize. And I’m being realistic here. Relationships are a two way street. I may not be able to connect with each one of these people this month. The point is, I’m going to try.

And one other important thing: I am going to PRAY for them. Each day, I’m going to pick one of the names on my list and pray intentionally for them by name throughout the day. I believe that prayer has power and that it is a way for me to care for my friends, even when they are far away or too busy to hang out. Friends,heads up! I’m coming for you, ready for all the heart to hearts, all the hugs, all the cups of tea and the texts and Facetimes and whatever else you need to feel loved and seen. I love you all and I look forward to sharing time with you soon ❤ And if not, know that you’ll be in my heart and my prayers!

I’ve gone through stages of my life where Lent has been either something I did just for the sake of doing and other times when I didn’t observe it at all because I didn’t want to be “just going through the motions”. I was convicted today that God doesn’t require anything from us; His sacrifice is enough. Giving things up for Lent and/or taking on new habits/disciplines is NOT something we have to do to be saved or to make God love us more, yada yada yada. The intention to grow closer to Him. Lent isn’t meant as a requirement or something to check off your list of religious chores but as a way to be more aware about your relationship with God and the grace that comes with it.

I just really love Jesus and I really love the people He has placed in my life. I’m super excited to spend the next 40 days thanking Him for my friends, lifting them up in prayer and HOPEFULLY spending lots of time listening to their stories and being present in their lives. Isn’t that what we all want, to have people who are really present in our lives?

Until next time, Sam

Kill ’em with Kindness

Have you ever had one of those days where simply everything seems to go wrong? Maybe you get a bad grade back, have a fight with a friend, or you’re simply stressed, tired and overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel alone in those times. In fact, I don’t know about you but sometimes when I am having one of those days, I intentionally isolate myself , which is so not a healthy way of handling stress. I do it because I don’t want to bother other’s with my problems however we ALL need people in our lives who are willing to be our community, even when we think we’d rather just do it on our own.

I’ve written before about how much I value community and my desire to have people in my life who truly know me . However, today I want to talk about how you can be an encourager and a bright spot in someone’s day, even if you’re not a close friend. See there is one community we are all a part of; even with nothing else in common, we are all human beings. We all need to feel valued, noticed and appreciated. As members of the the human race, each of us are involved, inherently, in community with each other. We share this space and sometimes we cross paths with each other at just the right time.  You never know who around you may be having “one of those days” and just need someone, anyone, to step up and be a source of kindness and community.

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Random acts of kindness.

We’ve all heard this one before and yet we really don’t practice it as much as we should. In the past week, I’ve been really inspired by those around me to do more out of pure generosity and kindness. When my mom was here visiting last week she paid for the meal of a lady sitting near us by herself. No real reason, Mom was simply doing something to make a stranger smile (my mom inspires me all the time btw, she’s one of the kindest people I know). This week I came home after a super long day to a note and bag of treats from a couple of residence. Last night my co-worker Marley put a chocolate outside all the CA’s doors with a characteristic about us that she admires. Thank you Marley. Today I watched a university student sit and have coffee with a man who had been panhandling outside the Starbucks. I really admired her genuine interest in his life and the time and attention she put into their conversation. All around us each and everyday are opportunities to step outside of ourselves and really see the people we occupy space with. Candies, coffees and conversations are small moments that pass but the thought behind them is what makes a difference. Kindness is a simple way to remind people that they are not alone.

Recognize humanity. 

Treat people like people. I mean this in two ways. Firstly, a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a man named George while I was waiting for a bus. He was clearly intoxicated and seemed to have a mental illness. I watched him approach several people on the street to ask them where to find something and they literally pretended not to see him and kept walking. I’m not going to lie, sometimes the people I see downtown Ottawa make me nervous but this time I was determined to do what I know we should all do: treat him like a person. We ended up having a lovely conversation and you know what he said to me? “I’ve been here for 3 days and you’re the first person in Ottawa to be nice to me”. WAKE UP CITY. Come on! How many of us live here? How many of us walked past George in those three days? How many other “Georges” do I walk past everyday? This wasn’t an act of kindness on my part, it was simply seeing him for who he is: a man who I believe is loved and cherished by God and therefore should be shown love by me.

On the other hand: see humanity in those who don’t like to show weakness. Sometimes all your stressed out friend needs to hear is that they don’t have to have it all together. Don’t make people into superheroes. As weird as it might sound, I sometimes need people to remind me that it’s OKAY to be human, to have bad days and to fail at things. We live in a society that teaches us to act like we are perfect and ignore those who are not. Instead, let’s all see each other as flawed people and love anyway.

Lift people up; be an encourager

I want to introduce you all quickly to a friend of mine. This is Lila. I’m pretty sure her default setting is laughter and aside from being absolutely stunning, she is also one of the most joyful people I have ever been lucky enough to meet; she has a heart that truly echoes the Lord’s. I don’t see her very often and yet on an almost daily basis I am blessed by her.                             14705703_10207243238827022_5351751920915094075_nThat’s because Lila takes every opportunity she gets to lift people up on social media. She posts inspiring messages on Facebook in case someone is having a bad day and writes beautiful quotes on Instagram. Here, I’ll let this speak for itself:

“Happy Monday Kings and Queens!
Just a quick positive reminder of the day; You matter. You make the world a more beautiful place just by being in it. You are lovely in all ways. You are loved by the Creator of weeping willow trees and the stars in the sky. You are incredible.
NEVER forget this. I want to be a constant reminder to people that they matter. It doesn’t matter where you are at, where you have been, or even where you are going.. You matter and I want to make sure you do not forget it. Enjoy today beautiful humans– there is SO much out there for you to explore and enjoy. Praying for y’all 🌻☀️🌸” – Lila

How encouraging is that?? This is one of many quotes I could have chosen; notes and reminders like these often pop up on my  feed from this lovely gal. She knows how to love with her words, both in general messages like this and by publicly acknowledging her friend’s strengths and gifts (p.s. she deserves a huge shoutouts too). You don’t have to be all over social media but you SHOULD make a habit of speaking life and blessings over people. Tell your friends what you love about them. Tell people that you appreciate them. Remind people that they are loved.

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Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Treat people with kindness. Show love. Be generous with your time. See the humanity in another person and step into community with them, even for a moment. It could make all the difference in their day.

And sometimes, a hug doesn’t hurt either.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12

Have a great night my lovely friends. Until next time, Sam.

P.s. I always love when bloggers write what they were listening to while they wrote. I’ve had an acoustic version of the hymn Come Thou Fount and Rend Collective’s campfire version of Oceans on repeat this evening!

Sunday Night Musings

Sundays are for sleeping in and brunch with friends, for catching up on readings and spending time with Jesus. Sundays aren’t always a day of rest but it’s best when they are. Today was one of those lazy, lovely Sundays.

It’s not very often I just lie in bed, awake but still cozy in my blankets and nest of pillows. Today I did. Well, actually I got up and made a tea, got my bible and then climbed back in. I did my devotions and lay and thought about life for a while. Just when I had almost convinced myself that I was going to be productive today, BAM. An old high school friend texted and asked if I wanted to have brunch. Should I have said no? Probably. But I didn’t, because life chats and crêpes from Cora’s are better than the library life any day.

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We ended up coming back to my residence afterwards because Michelle lives off campus and wanted to see what LeBlanc is like. For me, trying to see my friends and our interactions from an outsiders point of view was so interesting. She kept commenting on how close we all seem to be and it made me grateful all over again that I get to spend this year living in such a close knit and fun community. And at the same time, I got to spend my afternoon with someone from home. It felt like my two worlds were mixing, just a little. It was so fun talking to someone who knows the same people I know and misses some of the same places and things.

I didn’t end up making it to church (which, by the way, I think I’ve found one) because I was having trouble figuring out the bus schedules to get there. But my God isn’t contained to a building or a group of people. I went to my room and listened to some worship music and dreamt about the future and prayed for my friends and read some theology blogs. I just got to hang out with Jesus. Anyone who could hear my music through the wall (totally a possibility in res) probably wondered why on earth I was listening to the same song over and over again. But sometimes words just speak to my soul and show me God in a clear and powerful way. Today that happened with the song “All the Poor and Powerless” by All Sons and Daughters.

 When it was finally time to get a start on my homework, I made a “To Do” list on my desk whiteboard, as I always do. Today though I decided to start with a bible verse to keep myself focused. This verse really made me think today and I posted it on Instagram with a caption: 

Started my “TO DO” list with some encouragement tonight. Right now my “wherever” happens to be the desk in my dorm room. Definitely not all that exciting and not exactly frightening nor requiring of courage. But the fact of the matter remains that God is WITH me. Whether I’m at a desk or on top of a mountain (please?) I can rest easy with the knowledge that God’s got my back. Also, with Arabic and Econ at the top of that list, I’mma need the back up.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened. Do not be dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” -Joshua 1:9

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And now, I’m here. Sitting at my desk, more behind in homework than I should be and yet completely satisfied and content. Working hard is important but so is having days of rest. Thank you Sunday for being so lovely. You’ve set the stage for a wonderful week.

Until next time,

-Sam

Summer Compass

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I love the friends

I don’t see very often.

Because when we’re together

it feels so damn good.

Laughter and voices

keeping time with each other.

Old friends learn new rhythms

and teach songs learnt far away.

But then, the chords strike up

the old classics

and voices raise.

Hands find other hands,

and fingers intertwine like constellations connecting the dots.

Time vanishes while the guitar strums.

Everyone forgets

how long it has been.

Everyone forgets old conflict,

old fear.

Being together, just feels

right.

We lay on docks under summer stars

that freckle the sky.

We don’t need to see faces to know who is there.

Quiet secrets;

whispered stories,

come alive around the campfire.

And the night slips away,

like it wants to give us

some privacy

but the sun disturbs us all too soon.

When we say goodbye,

hugs and tears

mingle with winks and

inside jokes.

It’s okay.

We always find our way back.

Maybe not for a while.

Maybe not here.

But these friends are my summer compass;

warm summer nights always point back

to them.

Gallivanting into the future

Hey friends!

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Long time, no see. Sorry about that. School this year is kind of kicking my butt. Not so much that the workload is bad but that I’m really struggling to find motivation. It’s odd; I love my classes but I wish I could just go and have these long discussions about politics and economics and the world and poetry and not have to do random assignments that have no impact on the real world.

Anyway, not really the point of this. Today was an absolutely lovely day filled with music and good friends and hope for the future, so I figured I’d write a little something even though it’s late and I should be in bed.

Now that I can drive, having the car for a night is such a treat. I love having the freedom to want to do something and then just being able to go and do it. Tonight, I was out with some friends and then decided to stop by another’s house for a quick visit. I had just come to the top of a huge hill in our neighbourhood when I quite literally had my breath taken away by the beauty of the sunset. The entire sky was taken up by it and I felt so glad to be alive in that moment. Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the bad taking place in the world.

Last week I visited a courthouse in Toronto and witnessed an hour or so of a murder trial and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. And then there is the earthquake in Nepal which makes my stomach twist and my heart hurt every time I think about. And I don’t know if any of you see it around you, but the people in my life lately seem to be so confused or angry or hurting. But tonight I was reminded that there is so much good in the world. A friend of mine, Lauren, recently came back from doing missions work in India, Scotland and the Congo and was talking about seeing terrible things in the world but still being able to walk away and say “But God is faithful”

But God is faithful

In every situation, in every moment, God is faithful.

There is a verse in Hosea that I absolutely love and it goes

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth – Hosea 6:3

The sun always rises and God is always faithful. I think one of the things I love most about that verse is that he will come to use like winter rains. Most of us, I think can agree, winter just is not fun. Maybe for a little bit, around Christmas, but mostly, cold, wet and gloomy is not what I prefer. But God comes. In something we may perceive to be bad, God comes.

I guess what I’m getting at is this. There is evil in the world. There is. And you know what? It sucks. But there is also good. There are sunsets and sunrises and good friends and warm tea and laughter and an entire world to discover. And there are people who work towards finding the good like the lawyers at the trial I visited and aid workers trying to help rebuild in Nepal. And there are people who will just give you a hug and tell you that you matter (if you ever need that, just let me know, I really love hugs, and you dear reader). Best of all, there is a God who loves us, fiercely and passionately and relentlessly. I just feel blessed to have been given a shot at life and I can’t wait to explore.

I want this to mark the start of a new beginning for Sam’s Grand Adventure. Because, sorry to say, there are no “adventures” looming in the future. There are no plane tickets booked, no bags waiting to be packed. But there are things to learn and people to talk to and ridiculous situations to get myself into. I’ve been associating adventure with travel but honestly, just living is an adventure. How cool is it that everyday is unique? That today, you had conversations you will never have again, that tomorrow is (as cheesy as it is) is actually a mystery? Not to mention, if you want a real adventure, try giving your future over to God. You’ll end up doing crazy stuff that pushes you out of your comfort zone on a daily basis, like asking a stranger to have coffee with you, or deciding to perform poetry that you wrote live in front of people or acting out life advice in the bookshelves of Chapters. Maybe thats just me, my life is basically a comedy show.

So if you’ve read all the way to the end, koodos to you! I know this has been long, and kind of all over the place. But yeah, that’s where I’m at. I think the whole time I’ve been blogging, I’ve been so worried about making it good and making people want to read it. But it’s called Sam’s Grand Adventure. I’m Sam, and if you stick with me, maybe we’ll learn some things together. I’m going searching for the good and trusting God to help me find it.

I’d be honored if you came along for the ride!unnamed  – Sam

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Late Night Thoughts and Thanks

One last Sunday afternoon roadtrip
One last Sunday afternoon roadtrip

To the teenage boy I saw full out singing along to the radio on the highway today, who smiled and waved and kept singing when he caught me staring, thank you. You made my day a little bit brighter. I think we all might be happier if we were that carefree. And you made me think of this video

Thanks to Amen for making me smile by trying to plan a surprise party that fell apart at the last minute. I know you felt terrible because you wanted my last free day to be great. It was anyway. You’re absolutely the sweetest and I can’t believe we have to say good-bye soon. You’ve made my exchange absolutely incredible.

Thanks to my host dad for saving the day and taking us for one last road trip and picnic today. You are always doing things for other people.

Thanks to my host mom for making packing just a little bit easier and not making me do it all alone. You’ve made me feel so at home these last few months

Best host family ever!
Best host family ever!

To my Marmee, thanks for getting my room ready for me to come home and just for being great, you’re the best. I can’t wait to hug you when I get home.

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To my Daddy, I couldn’t find any recent pictures of us but I wanted to thank you for giving me diverse interests and adventures growing up. Because of you I enjoyed museums and train rides here more than the average kid haha. Oh and thanks for holding shopping bags for us girls 🙂

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Mallory, my little sister, expect a running tackle hug when I get home. I’ve missed you more than anyone

My non-twin twin <3
My non-twin twin ❤

To my amazing friends who have keep me in touch with life back home and made sure I knew how much I was missed, seeing you all is one of the only things making leaving Switzerland less sad. To the other exchange students, it was amazing to always have someone to talk to who understood what I was experiencing. It was so much fun laughing and bonding over all our #exchangestudentproblems. And to the friends I’ve made here, you will never be forgotten. Thanks for not laughing at me when I couldn’t say what I wanted to say and making me feel welcome.

 

Thanks to the ladies in city centre giving out “free hugs”. You made a lot of people laugh and smile

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And to God for making such an incredible, diverse world and letting me experience it. I handed this whole experience over to You back in August trusting that You would work it out and You did. Thank you for your faithfulness. Because of You I never felt lonely.

He is an amazing artist
He is an amazing artist

So many people in my life that I’m so grateful for, I’m lucky to be so blessed. Tonight I finished packing to go home and I was really sad but I decided to look at the good rather than the bad. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to write and this is what I ended up with.