It’s not uncommon for me to meet people in unconventional ways, it comes with the territory of talking to strangers and making connections no matter the circumstance. I met my last date on a sidewalk waiting for an uber, I met a couple who have become mentors to me in a dive bar, I met a great friend who has opened my eyes to travel and given me the courage to live my life with intent while getting a foot massage on the streets of Cambodia – there are good people everywhere.
But this story may take the cake.
Last night at dinner my friends and I were talking about how we are surrounded in life by wonderful people, many of whom we don’t take the time to get to know. Specifically, we were discussing how previous generations have so much knowledge and guidance to share with us and how we should better network and take advantage of them wanting to share, and us wanting to learn.
After dinner, we walked to another friend's house, had dessert, chatted for a while and I felt a tug that we needed to get back home. My traveling buddy Shara was in town and even though I knew the sun had probably set, I wanted to spend some time on our patio overlooking the ocean and take it all in.
That’s when it happened, that’s when we saw the balloons.
5 balloons – 3 orange, 2 white – were dancing across the sky. It was if they were on a very long, invisible thread being held by a child skipping down the streets of Manhattan Beach. They came towards us slowly, teasingly, almost close enough to touch.
My roommate Stacey declared “We have to get those balloons!” to which Shara jumped on board immediately. Before I knew it, we were out the door chasing balloons, sprinting down the street laughing like little school girls.
We raced up the hill and for a moment realized this might be a wild goose chase, but then we saw them. There they were in the middle of the street, lower than before, just about at the power lines, calling us to continue.
Off we went again, chasing and laughing – they were within sight! The balloons hovered in the back of someone’s home. We stood in the street contemplating – we could easily climb up on the garage, maybe the wind would blow them down to us, could we stand on each other to get them?
Two neighbors came outside and said “Oh just go to the front door, Richard will let you in if he’s home. He’s just lovely.”
And to the front door Stacey marched. She knocked twice and no answer. Instead of coming around back she decided to yell over the house, “Jenny, I don’t think he’s home!”
Well that, Richard heard. He opened the door, heard her story of wanting the balloons and with amusement walked her through the backyard where now the four of us stood, contemplating our next move.
“Ok,” said Richard. “Everyone take a deep breath, relax, call the balloons to you.”
And so we did, and so they came.
Now it wasn’t the magic of the balloons coming down to us that was so amazing, it was the magic that the balloons led us to meet Richard.
He stood in the street with us for about an hour telling us about his life, about his physician’s practice, about the early days of mapping the brain and how it provides insight to our soul. He spoke of his latest retreat in Big Sur which combined the powers of music and healing and how just like an instrument, we have to keep our body and our mind tuned at all times to be able to play our best. To take time to connect to ourselves whether through meditation, running, prayer.
He spoke of his meditation practice for the past 40 years and until recently, he was a “closeted meditator” but now holds a weekly session for 12 ladies in the neighborhood who’ve been meeting the past 3 years.
He spoke of “Mindsight” – “a term coined by Dr. Dan Siegel to describe our human capacity to perceive the mind of the self and others. It is a powerful lens through which we can understand our inner lives with more clarity, integrate the brain, and enhance our relationships with others.”
He spoke of the universe, of connection, of how everything happens for a reason. How the balloons provided our encounter and have now opened up the possibility to be friends.
He spoke directly to each one of us and seemed to know exactly what we each needed.
We left with strong hugs, balloons in tow and the realization that we were just given a gift.
We never see balloons just dance in that way, we never take off sprinting through the back streets in search of something blowing in the wind, we would have never knocked on the door if the neighbors didn’t insist (and were watching us so we couldn’t just climb on the roof).
The entire situation was a series of calculated events. I was with the right people, at the right time, in the right place, to meet someone who had just the right words and also happened to live right around the corner.
Today we attached a note to the balloons and left them to bring joy to another. We plan to keep in touch with Richard and look forward to him sharing the wisdom he’s collected throughout his lifetime.
These simple balloons were a powerful reminder that we must follow our instinct, we must engage and talk to members of our community and people throughout the world. There is so much wisdom and love to be shared that is often hidden just right around the corner.