Speak Your Mind

The serendipity from when a stranger opened up to me

A chance meeting showed me how vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Join the conversation

Sometimes it is the unexpected interactions that leave you the most fulfilled. It was Saturday morning. I like to begin the weekend reflecting on the week’s events and, with clear blue skies and the sun beaming down, I’d decided to do this whilst walking through the local park.

After sitting down on a nearby bench, I soon noticed someone’s dog had taken a keen interest in my right shoe. The owner’s name was Shaun. He apologised profusely and I told him that he needn’t bother.

We started talking and he then took a seat next to me on the bench. At 27 years old he’d already worked his way up to deputy head at his local secondary school.

Not easy, though his authenticity and candour gave me a sense of the type of teacher he was, and possibly why he had progressed so quickly. There was something special about Shaun.

Having been strangers for only 15 minutes prior, Shaun made a brave admission. During our conversation, with a slight hesitancy, he shared how his mum had recently passed away before quickly skipping back to talking about his teaching career.

I was taken aback. His mum was a teacher at the local primary school, which “fed” Shaun’s secondary school. The older students knew his mum well. They spoke fondly of her as did Shaun.

When making his career choice, he mentioned how his mum had been the inspiration for him to become a teacher as well. He saw the positive difference she was able to make to a young person’s life with her gentle and caring approach.

‘Shaun’s demonstration of that initial vulnerability was a sign of strength – not weakness’

Driven by her legacy, he shared that his purpose was to ensure every student in his school felt included and safe. You could feel his devotion in every word. As the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

Shaun talked about the relationships he had built with his students. How his openness had baffled some of the more senior teachers. What Shaun probably didn’t anticipate is how well I could empathise with his circumstances.

I shared with him my experience. Like Shaun, my mum had also passed away and coincidentally she was also a primary school teacher.

I knew firsthand what she would’ve meant to the school and to the children. The immense pride he would have felt as the school recognised her life with touching tributes and yet understanding she would never know the truly positive impact her work had on people.

As we talked it through, Shaun shed a few tears, followed with the customary British apology when, of course, there was absolutely no need.

We were connected and united in a purpose. The conversation energised me for the rest of the day. In 30 minutes, we had built trust, just like that.

For me, Shaun’s demonstration of that initial vulnerability was a sign of strength – not weakness. I won’t forget Shaun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *