The man with the red guitar

I’ve debated whether to write this story or not, simply because I don’t want people to get me wrong. It’s one of my struggles in life to be misunderstood. It’s why more often than not I stay silent. It’s probably for that exact reason that I prefer taking pictures and let them speak for me.

But here goes…

It’s a Wednesday night as I walk into the metro station with my girls. A friendly looking man with a red guitar passes the ticket gates at the same time as us. I love music and have a great appreciation for everyone making music instead of leaving that dream in a sealed box like I have; I smile at him and move on.

We walk onto the platform to wait for the metro. The man stops and stands right next to us. I figure he noticed my smile and wants to talk for a bit, after all Paris can be quite lonely at times. What happens next is not what I expected.

In the blink of an eye I see him lift his guitar in an attempt to slap me with it. He starts ranting: “Vous les blancs!” (You white people!). My initial reaction is shock. Wasn’t I just being nice to him? How is it that I deserve this kind of treatment? At the same time, I realize it’s not me, I have never seen this man before. His anger came before me and I just sparked it in that moment. My fear leaves my body. I’m trying to hear what he’s saying. I want to listen to his story, because I’ve learned over time that one of the most important things in life is being heard.

While trying to make conversation he lifts his guitar again. As he tries to hit me a second time I feel a hand on my arm and hear one of my girls say that her sister is crying from fear of me getting hurt. I had completely forgotten about my girls being there with me and as much as I want to hear this man’s story, the priority I have is with my kids. I move back into mom mode. I look at the man and tell him: “Stop! I hear your anger, but it’s unacceptable to scare my kids. They are too young; they don’t need this fear.”

It’s with those words that he snaps out of it. He too becomes calm, looks at me and my kids and apologizes profusely. We shake hands and get on different parts of the metro.

A couple of days later I see him again; asleep at the feet of Edith Piaf.

“Entre tes bras, dans le calme des nuits,
J’ai tant besoin d’oublier tout ce bruit !
Délivre-moi de l’enfer de cette vie…
Fais-moi mon coin de paradis…” ~ Edith Piaf


Follow your (he)art!


The picture looks to be about two friends chatting on what looks like just an every day metro ride in Paris. To be honest, I made it look that way simply because the man sitting next to them intrigued me…

So much so that when I saw him getting his camera out I walked up to him. I wanted to hear his story, I wanted to know what pulled me towards him, and the only way to make that happen was by listening to what he wanted to share with a stranger.

Much to my surprise the conversation went from 0 to a 100 in minutes.

He told me about following his heart, about being true to himself in his photography career, even though that made him lose out sometimes. But nothing was more important to him than being true to himself.


I no longer had to wonder what that pull was that I had felt.  I simply needed to hear this man’s story, because following my heart, being true to myself and being afraid of losing out (not just money) are all things I have been struggling with over the years.

He was there to hold up the mirror of my life!

“Look for the helpers”

I’ve just finished reading an article about vicarious trauma by Annie Wright and am actually still feeling this all through as I write…

Vicarious trauma and the subsequent grief for the state of the world we live in; it’s definitely something I’m very sensitive too. It’s for that reason that I keep following news outlets to a minimum and will hide posts in my Facebook feed.

But even when I do that, I can’t really get away from reality, nor should I.

Yesterday my girls and I went to the yearly event Paris Plage. An afternoon out and about on a makeshift beach in the center of town. Unfortunately the state of the world is such that the entrance is guarded and soldiers are on patrol, as you can maybe make out in the picture.


The soldiers being there doesn’t really give me a sense of security. To me they are more a reminder of what may happen any time we go out anywhere in the world these days.

Of course I can let that get to me and live in fear, or I can go with the words of Mr Rogers – “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

As much as that may sound like I’m keeping myself naive, I’m mostly keeping myself open to meeting good people, the helpers.

After visiting Paris Plage we hopped on the metro back home and met Fran. Fran is most definitely a helper. He sang his heart out, kept cracking jokes at people, reaching out to touch hearts.

DSCF8960AI have a lot of respect for people like Fran and I wanted him to know. Now really, I’m not someone to just walk up to a stranger and say: “I have so much respect for you”, but I did. What followed was a most awesome discussion…

Thanks Fran, you may have just convinced me to do that more often, after all you can’t go wrong with being a helper!

Counting faith in humanity moments

DSC_3921ADo you ever have a day where you are in dire need to tip the feelings balance in a positive way?

I do. I wake up that way; in need of positive moments, in dire need…

Being a sensitive person other people’s energy affects me even more deeply on a day of “need”. Today is such a day.

I walk into the metro station and the first thing I notice is “Islam Danger” written in a text bubble. It’s coming out of the mouth of a young boy. The sight of it hurts my heart. I don’t want my Muslim friends and neighbors to be exposed to such hate. I hesitate for a moment. I would love to black out the text so no one else has to be confronted with it, but I don’t have the tools for it. My tiny blue pen won’t do any good.

Going through these thoughts I see a woman from maintenance coming up the stairs with a bucket of paint. I know that I won’t see that text bubble again tonight. I smile. At least my count didn’t get stuck on a negative.

I can’t get stuck on a negative, not today…

To be on the safe side I read a book in the metro. Unfortunately this armor of protection can no longer be used once I make it to line 13. During rush hour line 13 is nothing more than a tuna tin.

I get on with the masses at Saint-Lazare. We’re stuck standing, except for two young women who think that sitting on the folding chairs, making other people be even more stuck, is not their problem.

A woman standing closest to them asks them politely to get up. The women refuse.

To add to that a man decides he needs to sit too. While folding down the seat he pushes away the woman that was leaning against the chair. No apology, no nothing. He actually has a smirk of victory on his face when he looks up to those left standing.

Where’s their “savoir-vivre”?

In my mind I’m plotting revenge. Blocking them from leaving the metro, making them struggle to get off. Maybe I can make them trip.

I’ve reached my destination. Two negatives make that this metro ride has left my faith in humanity destored*.

Walking towards the office, however, a man on a bike makes sure to give me priority while crossing the street, even though it almost causes him to lose his balance. He could have just taken advantage of his speed, but he didn’t. Thank you, sir, I’m only down one on my count now.

It’s not how I like to start my long day in the office, but that’s how it is.

Until I trip over the vacuum cord on the second floor that is…


*Destored: Made up word signifying that the faith in humanity was lowered, but not lost.

Hello stranger

GiveMeHateHello stranger,

I walked in on you chewing out a fellow Monday morning commuter for stumbling over your feet while getting on the metro. I knew you probably felt overlooked and unfairly treated. That small invasion of your personal space was enough to have all that you were feeling spill out on him.

One look on your face was enough for me to see that those feelings weren’t just today’s feelings. You looked so angry and at the same time so sad. When you didn’t get the fight you were looking for you started looking around you and your eyes found mine.

I looked at you with intent. I didn’t turn away my eyes when you looked into mine. I’m sure that was something you aren’t used to anymore; someone looking deeply into your angry eyes. More than ever they make people look away out of fear, right?

You looked back another time, but instead of getting me to look away I shot you a smile.

I hope it hit you in the right place. I think it did if even for a second.

Your look certainly hit mine. I felt tears well up into my eyes and a deep sadness overcame me. You broke my heart.

I wish I could have given you a hug. I wanted to hold you tight, make you feel the love I felt for you in that moment. It would have been too awkward though.

So instead I made sure that for the remainder of my commute your personal space was respected and protected. I made sure you could be the way you wanted to be. You looked up a couple of times and our eyes would meet. Did you wonder?

When I got off the metro I looked into your eyes one last time and wished you a wonderful day; I think I said it three times. I had to make sure you heard me. It was too late though you had to be the young man again protecting himself from the outside world through eyes filled with anger.

I wish we could have sat down and talked, but there are too many barriers still that I’m not ready to take…….