Befriending Strangers at the Arlington Farmers Market

“See ye no stranger”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, and I shall write of the beautiful strangers I meet and befriend.

Katie and Bob, the florists

“I want a bouquet for a spiritual gathering,” I said, “one of meditation, prayers and fellowship. Could you pick the flowers and make such a bouquet for me, please?”  She smiled and started doing her magic, gently picking each flower and putting them together in a harmony which would enhance the 19th Day Feast I hosted. She reminded me of the flower girl from Charlie Chaplin’s gorgeous movie “City Lights”, and I encouraged her to see it:

Kathy, a Jodie Foster-look-alike from Pittsburg, told me that she wants to be a landscape architect but she was certainly a capable florist already.

befriending strangers katie the flower girl

The  flowers she picked for me were:

If man gave names to all the animals, woman must have given names to all flowers!

The farm where she works, WollamGardens, will host the Dahlia Festival on September 22 & 23, and belongs to Bob Wollam, a kind faced man who told me that while he owns the farm, we own the flowers (as long as we pay for them):

befriending strangers bob and katie

Katie was visited by her two sisters and I could not pass the opportunity to photograph them. Bob joining them only enhanced their bouquet, wouldn’t you agree?

befriending strangers flower sisters and bob

Laura and the blue flower

I am not sure what it is about Farmers markets that seem to make people friendlier and more open. Observing men, women, children interact with one another in a civil, warm way makes me think that the convenient proximity of the harvest might have something to do with it; or is it because the inherently close connection we have with nature is easier to surface in a place that is more organic, and walkable, than your local grocery store?

Noticing what fruits and vegetables different people pick, I wonder what they would cook with them, trying to imagine the recipe, looking for ideas, even inspiration. With flowers, you can more or less tell when the bouquet will be for a date or for an office party. Just imagine the smile those flowers will bring and you realize you’ve started smiling too.

And then there are those precious bunches of flowers — not fancy bouquets — which would go into a single person’s vase just for the joy of bringing beauty into one’s day. I did not ask Laura from New Jersey whether that was the reason she was so particular about picking the right blue flower:

befriending strangers laura new jersey

I just delighted at being able to capture her joyously charming smile:

befriending strangers laura new jersey

Wouldn’t you agree that there is something inspiring about her picking this little flower to bring more beauty into her day?

befriending strangers laura's flower

Phyllis, the baker

Much as I love farmers markets, I would not be able to make it without the friendly people at the local grocery store. Biking back home, I stopped by the neighborhood Giant where I saw my favorite baker, Phyllis, who not only bakes the most delicious croissants but also hands them to you with an irresistibly  warm smile. Phyllis, on the right, her colleague Calvern, and a friends were taking a well deserved lunch break. We had a good laugh about how wearing a Venezia t-shirt was a good first step towards achieving the dream of visiting Venice, Italy. And then it was time to go back to life, back to reality — a reality which is always more beautiful with new smiling friends:

Whom will you befriend, stranger?

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