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  • Taylor Harrington

Outcomes

After we make a decision to make a change, to show up in a certain way, to speak up, or to take action, we often don't know what happens next. We don't know the outcome of our actions—especially in moments with strangers. It's quite possible that the mystery of possibility around that is more thrilling for some than the outcome itself. There's a beauty in not knowing what we're capable of. Two years ago, I was riding the train into New York City from Connecticut and sat down next to an older couple. I asked if it was ok if I sat with them and they laughed saying, "Of course...you don't need our permission - the seat is yours. Come sit!" We spent the next hour chatting. The conversation zigzagged in different directions and along the way, I learned about how they met and how they planned their spontaneous wedding in secret many years ago. I sat at the edge of the train seat listening to this woman recall the rush she felt to find a dress that was understated and fit the mood. It was her second wedding and she was over the big, fancy white dress at age 40. She picked out a thin white dress, with ruffles, not too fitted, from a local boutique. She could spin around in it easily. She liked to dance. And, it didn't scream, "this is a wedding dress". She actually bought it while shopping with her best friend and framed it as, "Wouldn't think be a pretty dress for a party in the backyard?" Her friend agreed...little did she was giving approval to a wedding dress. And, so this couple planned a beautiful backyard party with all their friends and family. The woman spent the first hour or so of the backyard party walking around as the hostess before the clock stuck 'secret wedding time' and she grabbed a bouquet, told her teenage kids the plan in the crammed upstairs bathroom of her house, and they rejoined the backyard party...which has now turned into a wedding ceremony. Her soon-to-be husband was waiting for her in the center of the yard alongside someone they hired to officiate the wedding. It was a beautiful telling of the story and whenever this woman took a moment to catch her breath and pause, her husband would jump in to fill in the details about the cake, the music, and the weather. The two of them had smiles plastered on their faces and even leaned over a few times to kiss each other remembering how wonderful their spontaneous wedding day was. After the story was over, her husband began to tear up and just said, "We haven't told that story in a very long time." His wife smiled and hugged him. After a moment of silence, he added, "Thank you." I later found out that the couple was on their way to a medical appointment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. This woman, this beautiful storyteller on the train, was dying. "Maybe a year? Maybe a few months. I don't know," she shared. She had tried many different treatments, and now she was at peace with knowing she tried everything. I don't know the outcome of exactly what that day on the train meant to each of them. What will they remember that as? But, the possibility that I just gave them a chance to tell their story for the first time in a long time, and possibly one of the last times they'd tell it together was worth the question, "Is it ok if I sit here?" We must show up open to possibility and with the curiosity to make a difference, even when we don't know the level of impact and outcome. It's in those moments where it may matter most.