One of the most important goals for me during rehab last month was to get out in time to make it to a wedding. This was the 3rd wedding I’ve attended this summer alone, and each time it was the result of me working my butt off in a hospice-recovery setting to try and make it to spend such an important day with friends that mean the world to me. And it seems like the 3rd time was the charm.
I spent the weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina to celebrate the wedding of my good friend Zack F. and his wife Michelle F. It was one of the best experiences of my summer – it’s just amazing how much they make each other laugh and how good they are for each other. Their humor plays off of each other beautifully and they are just a joy to share the same room with. I met Zack only shortly before he met Michelle, but even still – it’s palpable how much better they make each other. I’m inspired by their love, to say the least.
I was a part of the wedding party, and although many of us had not met before, we each know Zack well. It was great to see how their are definitely similar characteristics in the folks Zack invites into his life: they all have a very free and willing sense of humor, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. That is definitely something I immediately realized that we each had in common.
So on my way back to D.C. from Charlotte, I spontaneously decided to take a stop in good ol’ Blacksburg, Virginia. I’m sure you know by now that it’s my alma mater, both graduate school and undergrad, and it’s definitely still a place that I still call home. It has my heart, and they always say: home is where the heart is.
I’m fortunate to have many friends who still live in town, from graduate school, to university employees, to undergraduate students, to community members. That is, by far, one of the reasons that stranger dinners are so great in this little town.
Those of you who are Hokies definitely know that Blacksburg is a small place with a small town feel … with a LOT of people! With more than 30,000 students and thousands more in the town of Blacksburg, the population of our town swells when students come, and even though Blacksburg summers are fantastic, there’s nothing like the opportunity to connect with people from around the world when Blacksburg is at its most populous.
Although I missed the football game on Saturday because I was too busy having a blast at the wedding, on Monday night (a holiday) I decided to get together friends from several different Blacksburg walks of life for a Stranger Dinner.
One of the greatest things is that my friend, Alex G., was sitting right next to me. We’ve only met a few times but he is a charming, genuine, and charismatic guy who immediately showed an interest in stranger dinners and even asked me if he could continue them in Blacksburg after I graduated. Of course, the answer was yes! Fate made it happen because I texted Alex on my way to Blacksburg about this idea … which was about 6 hours after he landed back in the states from a summer spent doing research in Africa!
Alex has since hosted many and this was the first that we were able to convene together. Naturally, that made it one of the best stranger dinners yet.
The photo below doesn’t even truly capture it all – because the refreshing, engaging, and discovering conversations everyone had made a longer road trip so very worth it.
As with all stranger dinners, I’m hopeful that these new friends who walked into the room not knowing each other left the room with the encouragement to get to know each other even better.
I think my friend Danielle J. said it best when, on her Facebook page, she wrote: “This was an opportunity to meet people who currently study, work, or are affiliated with Virginia Tech. Some people knew each other before dinner, but by the time dinner was over, we all knew each other.”
The [Blacksburg] Stranger Dinners live on! :)