From Storms to the Love of Strangers

From Storms to the Love of Strangers

The day began innocently with gentle drops of rain dancing among sun rays just north of Cambridge in early April, 2022. We noticed a rising breeze and sheltered at a bus station to eat lunch, delighting in the rare treat of vegan blonde chocolate.

Here we met a local man who livened our lunch hour with his friendly conversation. We waved him off to his haircut and waved in the approaching storm. Winter had a final farewell planned for us.

Monumental clouds appeared on the horizon and as the light began to fade I asked Steven, “do you think we should pack the solar panels away?” While Sunjack’s panels are resilient, they’re meant to absorb the sunshine, not rain showers.

We stopped beneath a small cluster of trees and watched as a massive dark cloud neared, quickly accelerating a rush of rain toward us. This is the origin of the expression, its raining cats and dogs. Wind filled our ears and hail began to fall. The sight indeed appeared as expansive swathes of translucent fabric falling from the heavens in great billowing gusts.

These photos depict some of the before and after scenes, tentatively documenting the next hours of intense sun followed by blasts of nature’s power ushering in the spring. Along the way we faced heavy headwinds preventing us from cycling more than 3 miles per hour. Walkers could easily pass us, if they were strong enough to endure the wind.

By the late afternoon we felt exhausted and plopped down in a town to dunk celery sticks in our kilogram tub of peanut butter. It was quite an ordinary place where we sat, just a patch of grass nestled between humble houses.

That’s where we met him. Dave.

Steven and I suddenly had to pee, quite desperately. If we had a penny for these moments, well… Finding a public toilet when you urgently need one is always an adventure.

As we stood and considered what to do, something funny happened which prompted us to hug and kiss. At that moment we heard,

“I see you kissing over there!”

A jovial face greeted us with these teasing words. We laughed together and that’s how we met Dave, who would quickly become our savior.

We asked if knew of any public toilets in the town, and after looking this way and that and internally scratching his head, he came up with an unexpected idea.

“Not really,” he said, “but, I’ll tell you what.” Dave proceeded to give us directions to his mother’s home, which was a few minutes walk away. He said to simply knock on the door, tell his mother that Dave sent us, and can we please use the toilet?

While giving directions he gave up and said, “Just follow me, it’s really no problem.” That’s how we met Dave’s mother and stepfather, all together three lovely people who opened their home to us weary cyclists.

After beckoning us inside they proceeded to extend their invitation, suggesting we spend the night there. We hummed and harred, and Dave spelled it out simply. “Look, we’re not psychopaths. You can go back out there in the rain and wind to find a campsite, or you can stay here and enjoy a nice comfortable warm bed.”

The decision wasn’t hard to make. Reflecting now we realize what held us back was simply the amazement that people we’d just met would so quickly give us shelter and open their home to us, strangers. While it happened once before and would happen multiple times again, it was still a new experience.

We weren’t accustomed to this kind of generosity and trust from people we didn’t know and it went against every stranger danger message we’d ever received, which we are actively untangling from our psyches. While we’ve held this perspective of open trust for years, societal programming goes deep.

Granted we understand where the fear comes from. The world is full of stories and personal experiences. We too have met those with less than kind intentions.

Yet when the opposite happens, the universe shifts just a bit. Tentative sprouts of trust reach out, expanding beyond to reach others who may also feel cautious. Moments of kindness like these are healing balms. They continue to mend deeply inflicted wounds. We grow stronger through the love of strangers, just as we grow stronger through the love of family and friends.

Who is a stranger after all? Only a person we haven’t met. No one is really a stranger. We are all a conversation away from friendship, as even those who disagree have a lot in common.

Taken the morning after the storm, with Dave and his family.

The night nourished our windswept souls and we breathed in gratitude as the world outside breathed out waterfalls of rain. A vibrant sunset illuminated falling raindrops and we wondered at the beauty.

Thank you Dave and your family, for giving us shelter that night and sharing stories. We loved spending the evening with you and deeply appreciate your hospitality.

We’ll always remember our pledge to you. When one day, we too pass in a park and see someone kissing…

Written by Karla Sanders @karlasandersart | Photos by Steven Tiller @steventiller