Stranger 86, Day 86 - Meet Jumin

Stranger 86, Day 86 – Meet Jumin, the “One Who Feels”

Today’s Stranger is another familiar face at my yoga studio. She’s a teacher who I just about always catch in passing, and know very little about. We have spoken, but really not much. And according to my Rules of Engagement, she’s indeed a Stranger. Well, no time like the present to get to know her. In fact, she had very little time to talk as she was actually heading in to teach the e class after mine. So, I was very focused on our questions, but I hope this lays a good foundation for us to get to know one another much better in the future.

So without further ado, let me introduce you.

Meet Jumin, 39

Who are you?

“I am Jumin!” she exclaims! “I am who I am!”

“I am a yoga instructor. I am my dog and my cat’s mom. I am a new Atlantan. I am Taiwanese. I am a Hakkanese.”

What is Hakkanese?

“It is part of the old… ” Jumin takes a moment to think about how to describe this. “My grandparents, they all came from Hakka. Old, old Cantonese.”

“Anyway, so, I am who I am.”

I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (that’s you today), what would you like to ask anyone? Or effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger. I’ll let you think about that, but first, I’ll ask you what yesterday’s Stranger wanted to ask you: what small step can you do today to solve a problem you have? (Thanks to Briana, Stranger 85) Like, what could you do?

“I came from a tropical island, which I just moved from — tropical city. Miami as well. So I am working with the coldness in the city. So normally, I would just freeze myself and isolate my energy with others. The coldness really quite bothers me. I cannot function my brain very well. I get physically hurt quickly. And I realized, why not just accept the coldness? Just enjoy the cold, instead. Like, I try to isolate the cold. So when I walk my dog these days, I just enjoy the coldness, and feel the crisp air on my face. I touch the cold air, and feel it. So yeah, I think that’s today — the thing to enjoy the coldness. The smart step is that I taught myself that it’s not that cold. And then I feel not that cold! I enjoy the coldness!”

So the second Stranger yesterday, Travis, wants to ask you: what gets you out of bed everyday? Like, what motivates you? (Thanks to Travis, Stranger 85)

“Motivates me today? Or everyday?” Everyday. Any day.

“Any day? What motivates me?” She thinks about this. “What motivates me to be what? To be happy?” Just anything… What motivates you. What gets you up?

“I think yoga! Because yoga starts my morning routine. Starts my day. So I can now get out of bed even though of the coldness.” She laughs at this having just shared her feelings on the cold. “So I can’t wait to to do the headstand with meditation. Headstand for 10 minutes. Or have my own yoga workout for the first hour of the day. That’s my big motivation everyday.”

Headstand for 10 minutes?!

“Headstand for 10 minutes.” Wow. “Then, practice some yoga asanas and pranayama for each 10 minutes. So 60-90 minutes per day. So I wake up around 4:30 everyday. Today, 5:30 because it’s the weekend.” She smiles.

What would you like to ask…?

She chimed in before I could finish. “The next person?!” Yup!

“I think the second question is really good, so I would love to continue to ask the next person. Like, what motivates you?”

“That’s it!”

After the handshake.

Well, actually, we didn’t really do a handshake. She actually had to rush to do teach the next yoga class. I’m so glad that she agreed to talk, if only for a few minutes. What’s great about this is that it also illustrates how even though we all have places to go, things to do, we can spare a few minutes just to connect. Do we really need to send that text RIGHT NOW? Do we need to rush off to go to the store RIGHT NOW? Well, Jumin had a class to teach, so she did have to rush off. However, she was happily and very nicely shared a glimpse into her story in a few minutes.

As I spoke to her, her smile was big. She was looked around as she thought before she focused on me as she had the right words. But as she looked up as she thought, she had this look of “happy thinking”. Every time our paths have crossed, she’s always been so cheerful, and that was carried on throughout our meet today. I got the sense that nothing could bring her down… no, not even the cold (which apparently doesn’t anymore).

Meet Jumin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 50, Day 50 - Meet Danielle

Stranger 50, Day 50 – Meet Danielle, the “Balance Seeker”

I met today’s Stranger a couple days ago briefly. So just as I said in my Rules of Engagement, she’s fair game. 🙂

Today’s Stranger was pretty fascinating to me in many ways in what she shared with me, how she shared with me, and generally how much of our talk resonated highly with me. So much so that I almost gave her homework to check out a few readings because I felt they’d be so great for her. I promise I don’t do this often, but I think she’ll appreciate, too, because of her grander dream.

Before I leak all the details of our meeting, I’ll let you get to know her.

Meet Danielle, 27

Who are you?

“I am a 27-year-old Libra… and a teacher… and a dog mother…” she says this slowly, and laughs.

“I am searching for balance and happiness.”

At first, I thought she said “pants” rather than “happiness”. I had to get clarification, but at the moment, it sounded weird but made sense as it was slightly cooler outside where we were talking, and she was wearing a dress. We laughed about it.

When you say you’re searching for balance, what is that?

“Balance with… like everything. Balance of alone time, with time with friends, with family, to develop new skills to…,” she sighs. “I don’t know.” She thinks some more.

“Balance feeling complete, I guess. The only way I feel complete is when I have my hands in many things, not just all in one. So spiritually, emotionally, physically…”

Why are you searching for it right now?

“I don’t think it’s ever going to stop. I think I’m always going to want to be better at it. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it so far.”

I propose a philosophical question to this because if she’s reached balance, wouldn’t she not be looking for it anymore? Wouldn’t she be satisfied? To that, she responds, “Yeah, but at the same time, you can actually create more things to like say, ‘I’m really good at balancing my work and home life. Well, what if I want to be good at my work, home life, and fitness life’? Or what if I want to be good at the work, home, fitness, charity… or work, home, business, travel… you can always broaden that scale.” That made sense as she continued to add.

How do you think you’re going to continue to broaden that, but find balance and putting enough effort to each one of those facets? … so that you can actually make a difference?

“I think with this whole trying to find balance, I’m going to figure out what I feel is most important, and so when you say, ‘you’re probably going to reach a point where you are balanced’, that’s probably when I’ll know what I’m truly passionate about. And I’ll explore that more. I’m still figuring out who I am and what I care about, so I think that mirrors this balancing act that I’m creating.”

Thinking about you’re trying to find what you’re passionate about, I’m sure you have passions. So what are they?

“My passions are writing, I think helping others find their inner truths, exploring mine… I’m passionate about, obviously, children, and helping them figure out what their dreams are because I figured out mine a little late.”

How do you measure success for yourself?

“I think I measure success when I no longer feel like I’m working. I think I’ll feel success when I feel… peace. I don’t measure it on money. I don’t measure it on the things I have.”

“I think it’s success when I have things to write about, and I think success for me is having a muse and having… At the end of the day, I want to be a writer. So I think that my success is going to be completely linked to the experiences I have and to write about.”

I was glad she shared her dream to be a writer.

So far of what you’ve written, can you tell me about the most powerful writing that you’ve done?

“So what I’m writing right now, actually.”

“I really like poetry. It’s what comes naturally to me, but I wanted to challenge myself a little bit. My dad passed away 5 years ago, and he left quite… a… mark… on me… in my life.” She says this with the conscious pauses as she thinks. I can see in her eyes and the way she speaks how important this piece is as well as the difficulty and potentially transformative this writing can be, especially for herself.

“And I haven’t been really able to face it until recently, until I took on a project to write a non-fiction novel in his point-of-view. So I’m writing it as my father. It’s hard, and it brings up all sorts of emotions. But it’s therapeutic, and it’s moving, and I hope that it helps others understand addiction and depression. So yeah… it’s probably my toughest work.”

… and most rewarding.

Perhaps because of my talks with other Strangers, her father passing away, and her being a writer, I wanted to know… How would you write your obituary?

“Can I say it in Sonnet form?” she laughs. “No, I don’t know…”

“I would want it to say that my life was based on interactions with others rather than anything else, I hope that I inspired people. I hope that they see how moved I am by them. I get really emotionally invested in people, and I feel like they see that and recognize that. I hope that’s acknowledged. I hope that they see that my heart will always stay young,” Danielle laughs and holds up two crossed fingers.

“…and full of life. I don’t know how I would write it. Rather than how it’s written, I think it’s more important what’s touched on.” That’s what I meant… not as a format or structure. We laugh about this, too.

She admits she doesn’t like talking about herself even pointing out that her hands were little sweaty.

What kind of an impression do you want everyone to have of you after you first meet them?


Is there a common misperception people have about you when they first meet you?

“Probably. I think I quite a bit of indecisiveness that probably turns into, or can be seen as, flakiness or like two-faced just because I can see each person’s side. I can understand why certain people do things. Flaky and indecisive.” Danielle laughs again at this.

If there’s something you could’ve changed yesterday, what would it be? (Thanks to Sara, Stranger 49)

“I wish I spent more time with my mom when I saw her. I wish I touched her more — gave her a hug. I’m very ‘arms-length’ with her, and she probably needs a hug just as much as anyone else.”

How are you going to make amends on that?

“I’m trying to figure that out everyday!” Danielle laughs again.

“I don’t know. Just… having more empathy for her feelings, and trying to make more time for her.” She thinks for a little while. “I don’t know. Good question!” Again, she laughs.

What is a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I always like try to figure out what happened… my questions are… all the questions I ask can’t be answered!” Danielle thinks, but I press her for one of them.

“I would probably say, ‘how do you feel you’re able to fulfill your soul?’ Like, what is your soul aching for?”

After the handshake.

As I described different poses Strangers have taken, I mentioned yesterday’s Stranger, Sara, using a soccer ball. Danielle immediately asked me if it was Sara XX. I was a little shocked that it was. Apparently, the two are best friends. I want to point out that despite meeting Danielle at Starbucks, Sara is not at Starbucks often. So sure, the world isn’t that small within the context of my project, but to have two best friends interviewed back-to-back is a funny coincidence.

I mention how these seemingly “random” events are actually sometimes the most obvious. And it’s true. Once your run into great people in a community, you’re bound to find common ties throughout. That’s the beauty of this project and talking to Strangers. You end up meeting people are aren’t Strangers at all. Perhaps fitting then that I recall a quote from an Irish poet, William Butler Yeates, who said…

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”

I enjoyed getting to know Danielle very much. She’s someone looking to continually adapt and expand who she is. She shared so much that resonated with that I had to share with her a few readings (a couple I’ve mentioned to other Strangers) including:

Meet Danielle. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 43, Day 43 - Meet Terry

Stranger 43, Day 43 – Meet Terry, the “Entrepreneurial Teacher of Teachers”

Ah, yes, today’s Stranger is yet another oh-so familiar face I see all the time, but know nothing about her. In fact, we courteously smile at one another and wave, but that’s it. It really is a strange thing that we should see someone so often, and yet, say… nothing for so long. How great it was, then, to finally meet today’s Stranger as she waited in line at Starbucks. As they say, “better late than never”.

Meet Terry, 32

Who are you?

“I’m originally from New Jersey. I moved here 10 years ago, and I teach 5th grade.”

Terry tells me how she works best with “direct, exact questions”.

“I’m just a teacher trying to find my way.”

What are your passions?

“I make teaching resources for other teachers, and I sell those online outside of school. That’s something I’m more passionate about right now.” She talks to me about how she’s “teaching the teachers”.

“… more than just education. It’s marketing. It’s advertising. It’s creation. I have fun with that. As hard as a teacher, the more you do, you don’t get any more for it, so it’s nice to have something else – the harder you work… You see results as a teacher, but you see it from students, but not from administration or the district. So this is something more like the harder you work, the more you get. It’s incentive-based.”

Why did you start this?

“It started because I need resources myself. There’s a site where teachers can sell their materials to other teachers. I started buying on it, and I was, ‘they’re just like me’, so I could do this, too. So I started selling.”

She tells me it’s going well. She also shares how she’s hoping to work on resource creation full-time at some point in the future.

She shares how she has a blog, too, but it’s “so hard to keep up with. It’s a lot. As much as I like writing, I’d rather speak in front of a camera than write.” She does do Facebook Live and the like and post on her blog.

Where do you want to take this?

“I would really love to do this full-time, and maybe volunteer in schools, or something like that. The bureaucracy of education brings me down. It just drains you, and you feel like you’re running in a hamster wheel everyday. You can never get ahead. You can never get caught up. So it’s just mentally draining and exhausting. I would love to do that… this full-time. Creating.”

What are a couple challenges you’re facing right now that’s keeping you up at night?

“Financial. Just trying to get to where that’s enough for me to live off of. Right now, it’s not. That’s the tough part. There’s realities of you have to have health insurance. So I’d have to have private insurance… just stability. So I need to keep my day job.”

When you think about going full-time…

“It’s terrifying.” She talks about all the bills of home ownership, bills, etc.

“I think I can do it, but I completely sacrifice my social life which is tough.”

She explains, “I’m the type that when I’m in a creative mode, I’m in it for a week, so I can’t do anything else. I have to work the second I wake up till I go to bed.”

As you’re doing this, who’s been your biggest supporter(s)?

“My mom. She’s definitely THE most supportive. Then, I’ve got some other people that sell on the website that are very collaborative people to work with and get ideas from and marketing tips… business ideas. Most of my family are really awesome about it.”

“Then, I have a coworker that I got to start selling on this, too. So, he and I are always going back and forth talking about business, which is awesome.”

Would you say that’s what gets you out of bed?

“Oh yeah. I love experimenting with Facebook ads. Instagram… social media advertising. Just seeing if it’s growing.

Was there anything part of this journey that you’ve been surprised about that you didn’t think about before?

“I didn’t think about the fact that… when I see people actually using the stuff I make in their classrooms. Like I had a kid who moved to my school from another school in the district. My coworker gave her this pre-assessment for math, and she was like, ‘I’ve already taken this,’ at her other school. That’s pretty cool that there are people around the country doing my stuff… which is fun.”

“You don’t really think about the fact that it’s actually happening somewhere else, you know? You sell stuff, and it’s fun and everything. But when you see a picture someone took and they post it on social media… my creation… that’s fun.”

Anything else you think is going to help you be successful?

“I think just taking a leap of faith, and possibly risking stability and security for the unknown.”

Why do you want to take that leap?

“Just to see if I can do it.”

“I also think being comfortable makes me… I don’t want to say lazy, but just not as hungry. Although, right now, I’m hungry to do all of it so I can try to take the risk.” She admits that she’s not sure it’ll happen, but I hope she does.

“I’ve been at my school for so long, so I’ve established my reputation, my routines, and just my location. So if I get rid of that, the chance that maybe I can go back is scary. Or I have to go back somewhere else, and maybe I won’t like it as much as where I am. It’s a little scary… frightening.”

Why are you where you are today? (Thanks to Mallory, Stranger 42)

“Well… I made a bunch of very rash decisions in my 20s that kind of change the course of my life,” she laughs.

“First, it was changing from advertising to education, and then it was randomly leaving to Atlanta.” She shared with me how she actually wanted to be in musical theatre, but at the suggestion of her father, she should take business (“normal degree”) – why she started in film and then into advertising. But when she moved into education and started teaching, she taught drama before now moving into 5th grade teaching.

It was some family who convinced her to move to Atlanta as a town to get away from New Jersey.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I want to know what someone’s biggest obstacle that has kept them from reaching their goals.”

After the handshake.

Like I said to start, I had seen Terry a lot. She goes to Starbucks often as she continues to focus on her business beyond her “regular job”. So it was that much greater for me to meet her because I got to learn that she was an entrepreneur. After the handshake, we talked a little about what I’ve done in my startups and with my current role at the startup I work at. I would have never known if I continued to just smile and wave at her. It’s really been fascinating how I can connect with so many people for things like entrepreneurship, but indeed, so many other areas.

I hope Terry does take that leap to pursue her business full-time. It’s scary, for sure, but I also hope she finds the plunge invigorating like me. I don’t believe she’ll have to sacrifice her social life in the long-term. Instead, I hope she maintains stability in a couple areas as I wrote in a separate blog piece with Randy Zuckerberg and one with University of California Riverside’s 7 Dimensions of Wellness.

Meet Terry. No longer a Stranger.



Stranger 40, Day 40 - Meet Jake

Stranger 40, Day 40 – Meet Jake, the “Transition Enabler”

I met today’s Stranger in the lobby of my office. I thought I might meet my Stranger at the conference (last day today), but I didn’t have much time to do so. No problem as Atlanta Tech Village has lots of opportunities to meet Strangers.

So today, I stood around the building’s lobby waiting for someone to walk by who I didn’t know. I didn’t have to wait long to spot a man waiting for the elevator. So before the doors opened, I asked him the question…

Meet Jake, 28

Who are you?

“My name is Jake. I enjoy fly-fishing. I’m pretty new to this startup and tech world. I run a company called Digital Crafts here on the 5th floor, which is a coding school. Outside of work, fly-fishing and outdoors. At work, all about helping train some of these guys on development.”

Thinking about fly-fishing, training others on development, what are some of your passions/ other passion?

“The passion is what led me to Digital Crafts. I used to work in a corporate job, but I realized my passions… I enjoy helping people. So somebody would send me their resume, I would spend an hour redoing their resume — formatting it correctly, fixing the grammar and the typos. I didn’t mind doing that. So when I was presented the opportunity to start a code school to help people transition their career from one thing to a better thing, that excited me.”

“I’m not a developer. I’m not that passionate about tech. I’m more passionate about helping someone get to the next step of their career.”

Where do you think that comes from?

“One of the companies I used to work for, we had to read a book — we were required to read a book. It was to identify your top five strengths. It was by Gallups. Strength Finder! It was one of these innate strengths that I was born with, that I just enjoy. Relating with people is was one of my strengths. Reading that book and just understanding my five strengths, which I probably couldn’t name right now. Futuristic, innovative, responsibility… relater… restorative. So reading the book and understanding your strengths, you don’t have to make up for your weaknesses. You just focus on your strengths. So it came from that. I took a step back and was said, ‘what do I enjoy doing?’ Well, I really enjoy helping people, so when I was presented with this opportunity, I just jumped on it.

When you think of those five strengths, were any of them shocks to you? Were you expecting another one of the strengths to be higher?

“Not really. It was kind of clear once you saw them and read what each one meant and thought about what you did on a daily basis. How you addressed situations like conflict, for example. Restorative is one of my top five strengths. I don’t like conflict. Or if I am in conflict, I do everything that I can to restore that conflict. Even if it’s probably not the best for my best. If somebody’s not happy, I’m going to do anything I can to make them happy; even if I lose money.”

Have you found any other strengths are your weaknesses?

“Yeah, so case in point: if I have an employee where I have to relay some bad news, it’s tough for me to do that.” I asked him how he deals with that.

“I’ll send an email, or a written communication first, and then I meet with them. So that way, when I get face-to-face, I have to follow-through on discussing the point that I emailed earlier. I’m much better at communicating written vs. verbally, so that helps.”

How has this transition — you like to help others transition — was there anyone who helped you transition from the corporate life to Digital Crafts?

“I definitely don’t have a mentor now, per se, that said, ‘do this’. I guess my one person would be my wife’s grandfather — someone who’s worked in the corporate world forever. He’s 90-years-old. He wants young people to succeed and do what they want to do. So I remember telling him the story about Digital Crafts — ‘hey, should I do it? I got a really good job. Should I quit?’ and then walking into his apartment, two hours after I had told him about the opportunity, he was hands in the air. ‘You gotta do it!'” He raises his arms like his wife’s grandfather likely did.

“So that’s a defining moment actually for me. To actually go, ‘alright, look. This guy with all this wisdom just says go for it.’ So that was a defining moment.”

“I’ve had a lot of supportive people, but not necessarily anyone saying, ‘hey, I’m going to help you do this.’ Transition from that to this.”

I mentioned yesterday’s Stranger, Megan, wanted to know about his Life-Defining Moment to which he pretty much went there already. So I asked him if he had any others.

“Just in general for me?” Jake asks. Yes.

“Not off the top of my head. I just recently got married, so that was my biggest Life-Defining Moment… so no.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I would ask him, just an odd question to get the conversation started.” He wants me to ask to start. Okay, I can do that.

“Yeah, just give them that level-playing field before you jump in. Maybe what’s their favorite thing to eat.”

“… and at what restaurant do they get that at in Atlanta.”

He shares, “that for me at the moment is a bowl of ramen at Shoya Izakaya.”

After the handshake.

Jake mentioned to me later about giving the Stranger a moment to prepare, but I shared with him that I was very interested in the spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment response and connection with Strangers. Makes sense he would feel this way, though, seeing as I stopped him before he went up the elevator.

Again, appreciated meeting Jake as Stranger 40. He was about to get into an elevator, and took about 10 minutes to sit down with me and share a little about himself. As we said at the end of this, it’s great to finally meet another in the building.

Meet Jake. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 9, Day 9 - Meet Andrea

Stranger 9, Day 9 – Meet Andrea, the “Yogi Teacher for Children”

Surprised that even in my short time meeting Strangers so far, this connection was my first one at my yoga studio. I wouldn’t be surprised if many more of my Strangers are yogis from Infinity Yoga. The culture bred at the studio is one of great community and open relationships.

Today’s particular Stranger embodies the very spirit this project. She had great energy and an interest to connect. So…

Meet Andrea, 28

Who are you?

“I’m Andrea the daycare teacher and yoga teacher.”

She’s thinking now and laughing, remarking, “tough question, but should be… so many versions of me.” This point about versions is scattered throughout our talk, but before moving onto our next question, she describes two versions: “enjoying life version of Andrea… dainty and prissy version of Andrea.”

Her laughter bubbles up again.

What are your passions? Dreams?

“My dream… I want to do yoga therapy at children’s hospitals.”

She further adds how her passion is all about helping kids, describing this as her “basis of entire life”.

As she describes her love for helping and working with kids, I can feel her passion. The way she lights up talking about children. Her arms wave and she emphasizes the impact. She maintains a big grin while going on about her love of helping.

Andrea takes a moment to share that she has had this passion for helping kids since she was even young at daycare. She would also shuffle kids around and help her peers. And through her experience with yoga growing up, she’s realized its power and effect that can be made on adolescents.

What is your biggest regret?

Without much hesitation, Andrea points out, “engaged after high school instead of dancing and singing on the Disney Cruise Line!”

Looking back at this now, she realizes how short-term the relationship was (less than a year), but in the moment, she felt certain deference for her then-fiance. She recalled he “didn’t let me go.”

Thinking back at the chance, though, she fantasizes about it for a split-second saying it “would’ve been so dope!”

What is a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

“Independence is beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… I thought I need others to be happy.”

Perhaps because I led this question with the regret piece, this was the lesson. However, I got a sense that this was very much a principle of her life now – to be wholly happy with herself and not need the influence of others.

If you could do ANYTHING in the world right now, nothing holding you back, what would that be?

“Travel and help children everywhere… feed children… build houses… provide them with things.”

“… stay-at-home version, I would have all the money in the world, and adopt all the babies.” She glows as she shares this little fantasy. It’s apparent how much children mean to her and being able to provide children everywhere with love and attention.

Did you have a Life-Defining Moment? If so, what was it?

“Yes, kind of as a child – could’ve died seven million times.”

Andrea continues realizing “this journey… this is why I am here.”

She shares with me how she was very sick as a child and was consistently in the hospital including a 5-week stay in ICU when she was 5-years-old. She tells me she remembers the entire experience including her mom having spent a lot of time with her in the hospital.

She also recalls one particular moment when all the other children in the ICU came together… it was one of those moments of community and connection. It’s this very memory that Andrea wishes to recreate more often – for the children in the hospital, but also with their families.

“I wish there was yoga for my mom and me,” she shares.

So since this moment, she’s been striving to help more kids. She received her certification to be a teacher. Then, she received her certification to be a personal trainer. Each certification brought her into a new career path, but having spent time doing both, she abruptly exclaims, “f*** all that.” However, she also realized that both of those certifications “fueled my yoga certification”. She was able to leverage the experience and certifications of both teacher and trainer into a strong foundation and platform to which to build a career as a yoga teacher.

(She just completed and passed her yoga teacher certification course at Infinity just weeks ago.)

What is your purpose in life? What is your negative imprint? (Thanks to Steve, Stranger 8.)

“Purpose is to help kids learn yoga to help them cope, and learn how to cope to take with them in their lives.” She stresses the importance of teaching children on the how piece.

On the negative imprint, she immediately says, “diffusing being ‘nasty’”. She shares how she can have an “attitude for days” and how she can sometimes be “not as accepting of other people… judging.”

She realizes, too, that working on her negative imprint is a constant practice – “working at it everyday”, and she uses her learnings from yoga.

What question would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What are you doing today to make the world better?”

Stranger 5, Day 5 - Meet David

Stranger 5, Day 5 – Meet David “Compassionate Educator”

Looking around the Starbucks today for my 5th Stranger, I saw a well-dressed man staring furiously at his computer. Surrounding him and his computer were books and papers… it was clear he was too busy to talk to me. But I engaged him anyways.

David was a little skeptical at first, but I saw in his eyes there was intrigue and a desire to help… little did I know he would probably jump to help anyone even though he had much work to do.


Meet David, 36

Who are you?

“I would see myself operating from the context of my faith… a Christian… Educator as an occupation.”

Ah, I started to see why he would be willing to sacrifice some time to work to help me in my quest of 100 Strangers, 100 Days.

He continued sharing his passion immediately, “making a difference in students’ lives.” What a great segue into my next question…

What are your passions? Dreams?

“To see a school started in India… Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).” This was an interesting twist as he was very specific about the city to start a school.

David shared how he “saw the poverty” and children’s “lack of basic needs”. I could tell how much this meant to David from the way he described his need to help. He further validated this with how he became “burdened for the needs for children” and how he wanted to share with the children how they were “cared for and loved”.

David then began to share how he saw his life’s journey playing out — building many schools in remote areas to provide children with opportunities to learn and thrive. The big milestones he foresees include being an effective teacher, especially grounding himself as an able and compassionate educator. In fact, the books that surrounded him today were for his studies as he pursues his Doctorate in Educational Leadership.

As he thought more about the milestones and his future, David surmised, “biggest thing is praying, and to have God’s hand in this massive project”. He wanted to continue meeting people who shared in the vision.

What was your biggest regret?

David thought about this question for a moment before commenting how he didn’t view his life with regrets. Instead, he shared how he believed “all things happen to better us. Even the poor choices I’ve made in the past, they’ve all worked out.”

In one example, David shared his past having studied Aerospace Engineering. This was not ultimately his dream or passion, especially as he’s now pursuing a Doctorate in a completely unrelated field. He looks at this moment as a “stepping stone”. During this time, he learned and understood the value of hard work and money.

What is a life lesson you’d like to share?

“Find joy in what you’re doing with all your heart and might… understand this moment is a stepping stone.” Much like some of the Strangers have already said, David was reflective on appreciating the present — “while you’re there… being grateful of what you have”.

At this point, I really started to understand David. Through all our interactions, you get a true sense of not just gratitude, but a trust and faith that things will work out as he keeps in compass focused. Even through “the trials and difficulties,” he shares, “it’s a process of bettering myself (better person, father, teacher).”

He expands on this notion of “bettering the self” by explaining how with this mindset, you start to see life in a different way. In this way, you embrace every opportunity as a learning opportunity… an opportunity to better one’s self.

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

“My conversion experience… to knowing Jesus Christ… allow me to have compassion for others.” For David, his conversion came during his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma when he heard a message spoken by a pastor. It was the first time he truly thought about life after death. Prior to this moment, he didn’t have the right understanding, so he fully embraced Christianity and his new direction.

Who was your most valuable relationship with? Why? (Thanks to Dasha, Stranger 4)

“Jesus Christ. He has been my provider, friend, and light… guided me to where I am today.”

David admits having several dark moments where all seemed hopeless. However, he always had his faith to turn to.

I wanted to ask for a dark moment, but believe he would have shared, if he truly wanted to. We’ll see if I press others when this comes up in the future.

Final thoughts?

“Challenge and encourage people to share in aspirations. Think about living their lives… what really counts, what really matters.”

What’s a question you would like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is true happiness?”

David wanted to understand how the person responds believing the response “defines what they’re living for”.

After the handshake.

Not a religious person myself, I appreciated hearing how David found comfort and his compass with his Faith. Christianity had enabled David with so much, and through his relationship with God/ Jesus, David was compassionate and was on his path towards helping countless others.

Further, David’s question for tomorrow’s Stranger plus his responses around final thoughts and life lessons, he continued to hit home a recurring theme I’ve heard just 5 days into this — live life in the present and appreciate the [present] moment. I’m very curious to tomorrow’s response to “what is true happiness?”

Also, David and I talked shortly about this notion of trusting the current path as a betterment of the self. This hit home for the second day in a row this idea of how you can only “connect the dots looking backwards” — an idea espoused by the late Steve Jobs.

So meet David. No longer a Stranger.