Posts Tagged ‘stranger’

Singer sewing machine just like the one I sold to woman in Oklahoma years ago.

A nice thing happened to me recently. I got a phone call out of the blue from a woman in Oklahoma who had bought my old sewing machine on eBay years ago and kept my contact information. A real surprise.

She responded to my recorded message as if she were talking to me in person. “Yes, Ma’am. This is Margie M—. I had bought a sewing machine around 2014, I’m not sure. But anyway I was just wondering about it. I love the machine and wish I’d a called sooner. [She give her number.] Thank you and have a blessed day.”

I called her back. She was utterly charming. She said she’d wondered if the seller of the machine was even still alive, and she wished she’d called sooner. She’d had a number of sewing machines, but mine was the best. She said either I took very good care of it or I didn’t use it much. (I didn’t use it much.)

We talked a little about what was going on in her life, about ailing family members and how she was caring for them. At the end she wished me a blessed day again.

I think the experience of chatting with someone like Margie, a stranger with a very different life in a very different part of America, made it a blessed day, all right.

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Photo: Marcos Paulo Prado/unsplash.
A diary version of the chain letter, begun by Kyra Peralte
, comforted participants during the pandemic.

As things are gradually getting back to something resembling normal, people are taking stock of the past 14-plus months and recording how they got through them. A new kind of chain letter, first begun by Kyra Peralte, provided support to 115 strangers around the world.

Sydney Page writes at the Washington Post, “Kyra Peralte thought keeping a diary during the pandemic might help her sort out her tangled feelings. Then she decided to drop her journal in the mail and share it with a stranger.

“Peralte — a mother of two in Montclair, N.J. — started writing candidly last April about the challenges of juggling work, marriage and motherhood during a global crisis. Writing was cathartic, but Peralte, 44, wanted to know how other women were doing. Was she alone in her feelings or were other women experiencing the same overwhelming stress? She craved connection.

“So she made an unusual offer. She invited other women from near and far to fill the remaining lined pages of her black-and-white marbled composition notebook with their own pandemic tales.

‘I wanted an interaction that felt human, and it feels very human to read someone else’s writing,’ said Peralte, a children’s game designer.

“She dreamed up ‘The Traveling Diary’ — a simple notebook that would traverse the globe via snail mail, collecting handwritten stories and, ultimately, creating a community.

“A year later, seven marbled notebooks have circulated in various locations — from the United States to Australia, Canada to South Africa — and a growing group of strangers have formed an unexpected friendship as a result. So far, 115 women have signed up to participate.

“Peralte found her first contributor on a Zoom conference for entrepreneurs, during which she mentioned her diary idea. A woman from North Carolina immediately reached out and said she would like to write in the book.

“From there, Peralte wrote a Medium article, in an effort to recruit more women to get involved. Word spread, and she created a website so participants could easily add their names to the queue. Each person is allowed to keep the diary for up to three days and fill as many pages as they wish, with whatever writing or artwork they choose. Then, they are responsible for mailing it to the next person, whose address Peralte provides. …

“Amy Tingle, 52, sat down with the diary last September, in the wake of civil unrest and ongoing protests, and she decided to focus her entry on America’s racial reckoning.

“ ‘I couldn’t escape the sadness,’ said Tingle, who lives in Maine. ‘I remember being really disappointed in humanity.’ Writing in the communal diary, ‘was definitely a therapeutic thing during that time,’ she said. As an artist, she also included a collage of women, symbolizing the sense of friendship she felt with other participants. While writing her own thoughts was healing, she said, it was equally meaningful to read the words of other women who held the book before her. …

“Kirsty Nicol, 29, who lives in London, heard about the Traveling Diary through a friend. She received the journal two months ago, after it was shipped from New York City.

“ ‘It came to me at a challenging time during lockdown,’ she said. …

“Reading the entries allowed her to escape, transporting her into the lives of others and finding bits of wisdom they left. One woman from Australia had written: ‘Working with the setbacks. Not against them. Patience and gratitude. It’s a dance. Life is moving and we can stomp our feet in rejection, or we can gracefully embrace the mess, tidying as we go.’ …

“When Colleen Martin, 44, received the diary on her doorstep in Florham Park, N.J., last November, ‘I had just recently lost my brother,’ she said. … It helped her look for meaning and ‘the growth and development that occurs in terrible times.’ …

“ ‘It has really evolved into a community,’ Peralte said. She often hosts Zoom events so the women get the chance to get to know one another more, share stories they might have missed and connect more intimately. Some of the women, she said, have actually become close friends.”

More here.

Kyra Peralte, below, had the original idea to send a composition notebook with a diary entry to a stranger in April 2020, during the pandemic. “A year later,” says the Washington Post, “seven diaries have circulated, and 115 women have been part of the traveling diary.”

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So much anxiety about “the others” these days, anxiety that is seldom based on knowing even one of those others!

That is why I found this story by Steve Annear in the Boston Globe so charming and important.

He wrote, “Mona Haydar knew that when she set up two signs outside a Cambridge library [in December] with the words ”Ask a Muslim’ and ‘Talk to a Muslim,’ she had to be prepared for strong opinions about her faith.

“But the Duxbury resident said the impromptu experiment led to a meaningful series of conversations about religion, politics, history, and sports. It was an experience that, even in a time of prejudice against Muslims, showed Haydar that ‘the community is loving.’

“ ‘We just wanted to talk to people and we didn’t see any harm in doing that,’ said Haydar. ‘We are just normal people. There is definitely fear [in America], and I want to talk about it, because it’s actually misplaced and misguided — I am really nice!’

“Holding a box of doughnuts and cartons of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, and wearing a traditional hijab, Haydar last Friday and Saturday planted herself alongside her husband, Sebastian Robins, outside the library for several hours each day.

“Haydar said that over the two days they spoke with more than 100 strangers. The initiative, she said, was inspired by a similar act, called Talk to an Iraqi, that was featured on ‘This American Life’ in 2008.” More here.

I’d say she gave a gift to the Cambridge populace, which although considered open-minded, is not monolithic. And she seems to have received a gift in return: the satisfaction of initiating an important conversation and of confirming that the majority of people are kind.

Photo: Mona Haydar
Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, stood outside of a library in Cambridge.

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