A long-time friend, John, has a wonderful knack for talking to strangers. Like anyone over fifty, he has taken his share of life’s blows and has the dents in his armor to prove it. Unlike some who grow old, however, John has retained a genuine curiosity about people.
Recently, we were driving through town when John asked me to stop at an ice cream stand. I would have walked to the counter, ordered my ice cream, and returned to the car. Not John. He peppered the middle-aged woman behind the counter with questions, listened to her replies, and engaged her in enthusiastic conversation. Within ten minutes, we learned how she made her custard ice cream, the history of her business, why she preferred hiring school teachers to help during the busy summers rather than teenagers, and who owned the property on which the ice cream stand sat.