a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Nov, 2019

The messenger

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

I was killing time and looking at my phone while I was waiting in line at the coffee shop.

“So how is your day going?”

I looked up, startled. I hadn’t expected anyone to speak to me and I was doing the very thing I had promised myself I wouldn’t do, that is, surf mindlessly while out and about, participating in life.

Suddenly, here was this perfect stranger asking me a direct question out of the blue. He was a younger man, with frizzy hair escaping from underneath a ball cap. His eyes were a deep hazel. He looked tired.

The words came out of my mouth before I’d even had much of a chance to think. “I’ve had better days, actually,” I said, not really knowing where this conversation was going. I surprised myself by my honesty, and for not opting for the usual “I’m good, thanks,” which would have required a higher level of cheer that I didn’t possess at that moment.

“What about you?” I asked. “How is your day going?”

He paused, tipped his head back, and frowned, just a little. “I just found out my dad has cancer,” he said.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry.” I was unsure about what else I could add. “How are YOU doing?”

He said he was actually doing okay. I asked him if he had brothers or sisters who could help, and he told me he had one brother he didn’t speak to very often, and three sisters.

“It’s good have family to turn to when times are tough,” I offered.  He thought about this for a moment and nodded his head. And just as suddenly as our conversation began, it was over. It was his turn to order a coffee.

Before I left I told him I hoped his dad was going to be ok.

I’ve been thinking about this fellow ever since, and how important it is to make these small connections and embrace our shared humanity. Talking to strangers can be healing, and even inspiring and enlightening, don’t you think?

3 Responses to "The messenger"

1 | Sally

November 1st, 2019 at 8:14 pm


It is. You may we’ll have offered this young man some glimmer of hope that others care and understand.

2 | Sally

November 1st, 2019 at 8:15 pm


Oops. Well instead of we’ll. Grr autocorrect I did not see.

3 | Nicole MacPherson

November 2nd, 2019 at 9:13 am


I really agree. We are all in this world together, and I think it’s important to reach out to strangers. You just never know what someone is going through.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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