Two weekends ago, I was in Dublin for a Christian retreat. After the retreat had officially finished, there were still a good number of the participants remaining in Dublin for an extra night in order to take advantage of our sightseeing opportunities. To start the night, a smaller group of us decided to go out to dinner.
As we sat around the table I was struck by the international diversity in our group. We had 3 Americans, 1 Russian/German, 1 Pole, 1 Singaporean, and 1 other German who had been raised in Vietnam. The sociologist in me immediately asking questions. How often do these demographics appear together when not in a work setting? What would outside observers see about this group? Would I ever meet any of these people if it wasn’t for the Christian community I am a part of?
Besides the uncommon nationalities coming together, the dinner also stuck me because we had all decided to order a number of dishes and share them in a family-style type of meal. I had met most of them only once and now we were going to be sharing food together. At least in Western culture, it is a bit unusual for near strangers to share a meal in this way. I suppose there are many possible ways for diverse individuals to come together, share an intimate meal, and treat each other with familial respect; but to me, these events seem more of a rarity than a normality which makes me appreciate them even more.
After the unique meal, it was time to join the larger group at an Irish Pub. On the way to meet the group, we heard some street performers. Two of the girls I was with had taken 7 years of Irish dancing, so naturally we stopped in the middle of the street to have an Irish dance lesson. After our practice dance session, we met the others in the pub, where there was a live Irish band playing and our dancing continued.
As randomly as the night began, the closure of the evening finished the same way. When a few of us had left the pub, we decided to continue walking around the city, but with a purpose. We decided we would initiate conversations with strangers and hopefully brighten up their day by telling them how much they were loved. We talked to a woman working at a food stand, a taxi-cab driver, a group of secondary students, and one other man. Though the people were always a bit surprised by our conversations, all of them seemed touched by our actions.
I know this all sounds strange and maybe a bit weird, and it was. I certainly do not go around on a normal basis telling strangers how much I think they are worth, but despite the oddness of the night, it was one I would not trade. At the very least, I can say I literally danced the streets of Ireland.