Any good recommendations?”

It all began at the corner of E. Alejo Road and Indian Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs as I waited for the light to change.

 Fresh off checking into my conference, I had felt encouraged to enjoy the beautiful day and hike (with my rolling luggage) the measly 2 miles to my hotel. And now here I was, at this corner, with a mile left to go and the sweat starting to grab onto my long sleeve shirt. It had only been one mile, but for an overweight, middle-aged man in the hot desert sun, if felt like I was halfway through an impromptu marathon. As I stood there waiting for the light to turn, a car pulled out in front of an oncoming car and received an audible reminder that it wasn’t their turn yet.

“That’s why I don’t drive!”, said a voice behind me. I had probably sensed that someone was waiting with me on this corner but his comment snapped me out of my daze. “Yep”, was my intelligent, engaging response. The light soon changed colors and we crossed the street and that is when it happened. The carry-out bag he was holding caught my attention. It wasn’t unique or oversized. It wasn’t colorful and it didn’t have a funny phrase on it. It was just a plain plastic bag with a standard white Styrofoam container, but it was urging me to ask the question. And for some reason, maybe it was a desire for a distraction from the long journey ahead or maybe it was the heat-stroke, I blurted out “Any good recommendations for places to eat?” That is all it took. Over the next mile, I learned a lot about Jose. I learned about his kids, all 7 of them. I learned about the loss of his father from cancer. I learned about his work in construction. I learned about his desire to move to somewhere with lots of trees, because the forest has always intrigued him. I learned so much about Jose that I actually have no memory of the restaurants he recommended at the beginning of our walk. I have a new-found relationship with a man that I most likely never see again. I am forever linked to a family and a dream in Palm Springs and his stories challenged me to think about my own family and dreams.

So, “Any good recommendations?” you may ask.

Yes, I have a recommendation for you. Seize that moment. That seemingly minor, odd moment at the simplest of times to start a conversation with someone. Start a new relationship or strengthen an existing one. You don’t need to start with anything insightful or meaningful. The conversation doesn’t need to be long or in depth. But that relationship, that human connection for even a split second can impact someone’s day, maybe even their life. And who knows, you might even end up with a recommendation for a new restaurant to try.

Ben Rheinheimer, Self-Efficacy Curator