“Oh sweetie, you will want to sit in the middle,” a smiling and pleasant faced woman encouraged Katie yesterday afternoon as we boarded our car to ride Radiator Springs Racers at Disneyland. “It’s so much safer for you there, honey.”

The ride sits three to a row, and Katie and I were sitting together with Auntie Ashley and Uncle David paired up in the row behind us. That left two empty seats in each row for people willing to ride as single riders.

As I was in the process of guiding Katie back to the middle seat anyway, I found this lady’s remark to be supportive.

Katie looked at me and muttered with a bit of panic in her voice, “But I don’t want to sit next to a stranger!” She was trying to be the five-year-old’s version of quiet and tactful, so of course the lady heard this comment. She immediately said, “It’s okay sweetie. I won’t bother you.” Reassured, Katie was fine. We started talking about the Arizona rocks and reminiscing about our road trip last summer.

The lady joined in. She was somewhere around my mom’s age and her voice was so calming and amiable. She started pointing out things to Katie on the ride. “Ooh look, here’s where we get our car painted! What color do you want to be?”

Eventually we started zooming around the track. All of us were gasping and oohing and ah-ing. Our car “won” the heat. Katie gave her a high five. She and I gave each other high fives. In just that single moment we bonded. As we pulled into the car loading area, I asked her name. “I’m Sarah,” I said. “What’s your name?” As if we were new children meeting for the first time on life’s playground.


We pulled in and started to disembark. For most of my life I was not much of a hugger, but somewhere in high school and then certainly in college and as a teacher I began to change. As I came into my own, I have realized that I am definitely a hugger. I love the idea of touch as a way to connect with others. When we touch, we open up. A hug can be such an expression of authenticity. It can also be quite the opposite: the beautiful part about hugging is that, to do it well, both people are needed to invest. A good hug lingers just a bit but not too long. It communicates that the other person is of value to you.

That said, I try not to invade personal space if I get any sort of vibe that it might be unwelcome. There are some in my family who have described themselves as “not huggers.” I get that. No judgement. I used to feel the same way—so I do try to be cautious. A person who is not a hugger is no less than tortured when finding himself or herself in an embrace.

But there was something about Rhonda. Maybe she is a hugger, too. Maybe there was something in her voice. Sometimes people just meet and are on the same wavelength. I wish I knew more about that wavelength business. If I could quantify it, I would write a book about it. One of life’s most blindingly beautiful gifts is coming across someone on your same wavelength. Why and how does it happen? Genes? A shared essence? Something more inexplicable?

Rhonda was a stranger. But as we got off the ride, I reached to hug her and she reached to hug me. And it was meaningful. That hug said, “This was a beautiful moment with you.” We were fully in the present together. I am almost sure we will never see each other again in this life, yet somehow life put us together to share a fleeting few minutes of beauty and joy together. Why? Was it random? Was it fated? I guess it depends on what you, the reader, believe. All I know for sure is that there was a resplendent “now-ness” about it. An openness. Together we made good ripples that I hope keep going forward somehow.

I have pondered the connection we made so many times today. The childlike spirit of it. There may be no other reason than the variables of life coming together in just the right way to say, “Here is a gift for both of you: a person for each of you to enjoy for this moment.”

So Rhonda, wherever you are, I had fun in that moment with you. Thank you for your open spirit and your pleasant heart. Thank you for helping my daughter to savor her ride and building her confidence. Thank you for being childlike and showing how much you love to be alive. We generated good ripples together, and I am carrying those forward with me. What a gift to have met you in that small space of time!


May we always stay young and with an open heart. There is magic in childlike connection.