Everyday we make connections with other people. Sometimes those connections are fleeting, like when you open a door for someone or share an elevator ride and smile politely. Sometimes these connections last a bit longer like when you chat with your taxi driver while he takes you to your destination. These connections are transient but can often be memorable. On one occasion, as a taxi driver was taking me home, he said “I picked up your family from the airport when you first moved to London about 15 years ago”. He remembered my house by its distinctive Victorian awning, remembered my wife and daughters, and was pretty accurate about the timing.
Some of our connections are repetitive and grow into small parts of our lives: the barista at the local coffee shop who always remembers my skinny cappuccino with an extra shot, or the waitress at the diner who remembers my egg white spinach omelette with dry rye toast, or the people who work out at the same time as me at the gym or sit in my section year after year at the football game, or my regular caddy at the golf club or trainer at the gym. Over time some of these connections lead to conversations in which we share stories or ask about families or holiday plans. After several of these conversations, we begin to feel a more meaningful bond and look forward to the next connection.
One special connection for me has been with Sami, my barber in London. I could easily shave my own bald head, but every week I look forward to going to the barber shop for Sami’s ten-minute buzz cut. Sometimes I bring Sami an espresso; sometimes he makes a coffee for me. He always tells a joke. We talk about Chelsea FC, of which we are both supporters. We also talk about the neighborhood, politics, food, and family. I have met Sami’s wife and children at the barber shop. Once, I offered Sami’s daughter £20 if Sami would stop smoking for two consecutive days. He did it and I paid her. He has since stopped completely.
Sami is originally from Syria, but is a UK citizen. He still has a sister, niece and nephew living there. Recently, we have been talking about the spreading revolts against oppression in the Middle East. When it all first started, Sami was quick to conclude that it would spread, including possibly to Syria. His fourteen year-old daughter was scheduled to spend her spring break visiting her aunt and cousins. At the time, things were still quiet there, so she went. While she was there, things began to change, resulting in violence, looting and a government crackdown. I started to stop by the barber shop several days a week to see how Sami’s daughter was doing and whether his family was safe. Sami’s sister kept assuring him of their safety, and Sami’s daughter eventually returned safely but a bit shaken.
Sami is still worried about his sister and her children. I am too.