By Malkie Hirsch
Lately, I’ve been receiving requests from people I don’t know asking to meet up for coffee or a lunch date. They arrive in message form via social media, my Instagram and Facebook pages, sometimes via WhatsApp from a mutual friend.
I genuinely enjoy using my platform to meet people from different walks of life. (I guess that’s why they call it “social” media.)
Last week, while out to lunch with a potential new friend who had messaged me on Facebook to grab a quick lunch, it occurred to me that I had no idea how she had even come to reach out to me.
When I asked her, she responded “Oh, we’ve got mutual friends on Facebook, and after clicking on your profile and reading some of your writings, you sounded like someone I’d love to get to know.”
For real? Oh wow. Ok.
I’m one of those people who have more “friends” on Facebook that I don’t actually know than friends that I do. So, for all I knew, it was highly likely that our mutual friends were complete strangers to me.
For those who know me, this is very typical behavior.
I chuckled to myself and continued eating my omelet.
It never really occurred to me that because of my ability to share my unpredictable life’s journey that people felt like they truly knew me.
And in a way, they do.
The things I share, the way I express myself, is all true.
There are still things I don’t share for my kids’ sake and for their privacy, but I do realize that I do share a lot more than most feel comfortable doing. And I’m not so naive as to indiscriminately meet up with just any random stranger who reaches out online.
But some of these “strangers” seem more like friends I just haven’t come to know yet—familiar, relatable, potential.
I enjoy meeting people. I love learning from them and hearing what they’ve learned from me. I enjoy the dialogue, the stories, and the connections.
It’s my way of feeling less alone than I do sometimes. It’s my way of communicating my truth and being completely honest with how hard things are sometimes.
And how with every stage that we tackle, we have a cheerleading squad of friends and some future friends that are encouraging us from near and far.
From over a computer and sometimes in person over coffee. From behind a grocery cart and sometimes sitting on a flight for the first time since Moshe passed.
Regardless of how it’s expressed, it gives me encouragement and strength, so really this thing that I do is mutually beneficial.
Last week, I had received a message on my Instagram page from a woman from Chicago who was coming into my neighborhood for the week to visit family. She had asked me weeks prior if we could meet up and naturally, I had completely forgotten until a half hour before I found myself driving to Crawford’s Cafe to meet her.
As we sat and exchanged some information, I realized why this happens. Why I’m very casual about meeting new people and why this is G-d’s way of providing some clarity to me in my life.
This woman had gone through the same loss as me, in the same sudden nature as me. She even had 4 sons and a daughter, like I do. I could only imagine the constant “aha” moments she’d have as she followed me on my page and read my articles.
We shared a bond that most people didn’t and we didn’t even know each other. We opened up and asked questions to each other on that coffee date that lasted way longer than I had initially thought it would.
I asked her about her kids who she was lucky enough to be marrying off. I asked her if she knew the difference between junk mail and an actual bill before her husband passed and she laughed and said “nope!”
She asked me if I was redecorating my house at all and I quickly answered “bedrooms and basement!”
We spoke about things like our late husbands’ levayas, we spoke about functioning on next-to-no sleep. We empathized over our desire for someone new to be in our lives to share this sometimes really tough journey called life; the agony of starting over in the dating scene at this stage.
I told her about several dating apps and how it could be her new nightly activity and then we FaceTimed her daughter in Israel to tell her how we found each other.
It was such a comfort to hear how she picked up where her husband had left off and did what she had to do when it came to raising her kids.
It’s not something anyone ever wants to have to do, but sometimes we’re not consulted. We’re just told and then it’s on us to do what needs to be done.
Just like she might’ve seen an earlier version of herself in me, I in turn saw the future version of myself in her.
What I thought would be a casual coffee date turned out to be a dialogue so meaningful and deep, so unexpectedly fulfilling, that it reinforced to me the reasons that I do what I do. The reason I am the way I am.
These are clear messages and sometimes they arrive in the most unusual places and ways. The most valuable treasure we have in this life is connection.
Opportunities to learn from one another, and to gain inspiration, support, and encouragement from each other.
So I ask why and how anyone wouldn’t want that? When we’re in pain, it can feel easier to hole up in our homes and hearts, to close in and self-protect. It can feel safer not to let others in, to risk loss or hurt again. I’m outgoing, but I still worry about what people think. Ultimately, though I usually decide to go for it—to make the call, the visit, the lunch date. And way more often than not, I end up feeling that it was so worth it—that if I didn’t take advantage of these invitations, that would be the true shame.
See for yourself and take a chance doing something unexpected or meeting someone you don’t know (yet).
You never know how a cup of coffee might change your life.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of just 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.