I heard her baby boy before I saw him. His babbling noises spread a smile across my face as I stepped off the elevator.
I turned the corner to see her holding him on her hip outside their apartment door.
This was our first time meeting in person. Her hair was longer than I expected. Her eyes were kinder than Zoom could portray.
She invited me in to meet her husband and their young daughter.
"Thank you for coming to our home," he said.
They were thanking me? I felt honored to be invited.
During our conversations, the language barrier between us forced all my attention onto my hosts. My mind couldn't be anywhere but the present to understand them. It was magical.
She cooked us food from her home country that surprised and delighted my taste buds.
We talked about life and work and family. I learned about his fascinating research and their life back home. I learned about their country's history, their famous scientists, poets, and artists.
Their children talked and played with a kind of unselfconscious joy one only knows in childhood.
Sitting in this warm apartment, dining with unlikely friends, I forgot all my little problems.
Connection brings us that. The chance to forget ourselves because we're so engrossed in the person across from us. Like I said, magic.
All it takes us a table. The gathering place. The great equalizer.
Across from the table, we are equals. Age doesn't matter. Ethnicity doesn't matter. Height doesn't matter. Neither does weight.
At the table, we see eye to eye.
Isn't that what we all want? To see and be seen by others as equals?
The incredible thing is, we don't need much to have what we most want.
Just a table, some chairs, and a little undistracted time lead to learning, laughter, and a lot of contentment.
A night full of friendship is just one invitation away.