It all starts with a spark, the meeting of two sets of eyes, pounding heart and sharp intake of breath. In that single moment an overwhelming cocktail of fear, rejection and the unknown is conquered:
"Hi I'm Ian..nice to meet you"…
This story starts on a typical Thursday morning. Being my own boss these days, I've taken to bringing my laptop along to nearby cafés to tackle the ever-increasing torrent of life admin. There's something about the incessant clanging and clattering of saucers, blasts of steam and aroma of fresh coffee in the air that excite my creative juices. Due to corporate tax avoidance I boycott the main coffee chains in favour of local, independent places.
I was introduced to this one café, nearby to where I live, by a wonderful friend of mine - Dominique. It's an Aladdin's cave of hipster chic, reclaimed furniture from the building's previous life as a high street bank - hell it's even got a cinema in the old vault! In a pre-coffee haze I aim for my usual spot in the corner, however this morning, blocking my route is a large shaggy dog, laid outstretched on the floor.
Crouching down I offer a cupped palm for inspection. Shaggy dog, shyly scoots back on his legs, resting his doggy moustache and beard on his front paws. I'm patient and lower my knees to the floor, with an inquisitive sniff and a gentle lick on the hand I've made a new four-legged friend, his name is Kiko.
I suppose in a lot of ways Kiko and I are alike, both weary around strangers and take a little while to warm up! From my travels I've forced myself to take an occasional leap of faith and strike up a random conversation. It turns out Kiko's owner, Zoe, an artist struggling with her marketing and a 'self confessed -digiphobe'.
Zoe tells me over coffee that she refurbishes packing crates to 'treasured chests' - I like Zoe already. So much so I find myself volunteering an hour of my time the following week, to help her with her marketing. As a thank you, Zoe proudly hands me a beautiful greetings card with her artwork as the thank you. It might be something as simple as a smile on a crowded train, holding the door open or simply not being a complete a*sehole every day.
A simple act can spark off a chain reaction that can go viral. The worst that can happen is someone thinks you're a nutter (well they might have got that right). Take a risk, smile and say hello! What's the worst that can happen? You make a friend for life.
I've always thought if you have something to spare at no detriment to yourself you should give it unconditionally. And in this case, the chain has gone full circle and now Dominique has a beautiful birthday card!