The trip, which covered no more than two blocks there and back, felt momentous, because it had been a full week since I had left the apartment. A particularly disgusting and painful version of the common cold had anchored me to an armchair, and while I wasn't feeling well at all yet, I needed to acknowledge the land of the living.
While I waited to pay for my groceries, I watched a little boy play with one grandmother in a small children's area outfitted with toys and books while his other grandmother chatted with the cashier.
"We asked him where he wanted to go," she said, "and he told us he wanted to come here!"
"That's so cute," the cashier said.
"This is his favourite place," the grandmother said.
This little boy's favourite place was this grocery store, and I could see why. They made him feel welcome. They gave him a place in it that he was free to use as he pleased. The woman at the sandwich counter sneaked him a chunk of carob. This corner of the grocery store had become his place, too, and he wanted to share it with people he liked.
While watching him, I realized that this is what we all want, really. We want to feel, and actually be, included. We want to be given the freedom to stake our claim to communal spaces and be accepted. And, more than finding acceptance, we want to share our good communal finds with each other and deepen those connections.
This idea, this extended welcome, is behind how I write, design, consult, and speak, but I was unable to find the right words for it until I watched a four-year-old showing his extended family how all the parts of his favourite space worked and why he liked them.
It reminded me to watch the world more closely and the stories it has to tell. Our personal narratives — the very stuff that describes our goals, beliefs, and understanding of who we are — are informed and illuminated by these stories, and they can speak profoundly to us in the smallest, incidental moments.