Yesterday, in between classes, I decided to walk to the fruteria and pick up an orange (the go-to fruit for me and my roommates). From there, I went to Alhondiga, the city’s civic center complete with gym, library, restaurant, indoor swimming pool and movie theatre. But, this was not a day where I came for the amenities. I opted to sit outside on a bench, listen to music and enjoy my orange. Nothing spectacular, just ordinary.

A couple minutes passed and a guy began walking towards me. I have to admit that hesitant thought of “is he going to sit next to me?” crossed my mind (I guess I am guilty of the American status quo to want personal space). Of course, he plopped down right next to me. Inches lay between us. Now what to do? I wanted to say hi or acknowledge him with a slight smile, but he turned away. Plus, I am still shy about my Spanish speaking skills. And by that I mean my lack of skills. I did, however, feel inclined to take my Ipod out of my ears. It was the least I could do. Then the moments passed, me eating my orange and him looking the complete opposite direction. Awkward. I wanted to laugh because I didn’t know how else to respond. You know those awkward moments? And I use the term “awkward” lightly because it is not wrong or weird; it is just this slight, very slight uncomfortable feeling coming from both parties. You cannot deny the other’s presence; it is just a matter of whether or not to greet them.

Thankfully, he broke the silence and actually turned my way. He asked the time. I returned the Spanish with Spanish. However, I couldn’t hide my obvious foreign accent. He noticed and asked what I was doing in Bilbao. I told him in broken Spanish about studying and living in Bilbao. He asked my name and introduced himself as Alex. Next thing I knew the conversation evolved. I learned he was born in Poland, but raised in Greece only to move to Spain for the past couple of years. We talked back and forth for a while in broken Spanglish, taking moments to laugh at our efforts to speak the others language. He ended the conversation by saying that if I ever see him around the civic center again that I’d better say hello. I smiled, an unspoken promise to do-so. And just like that a stranger was no longer strange, but rather now a familiar face.

This was no extraordinary encounter. No overwhelming connection. No attraction. No deep conversation. But it was a conversation between to strangers. And that, to me, is extra-ordinary. This typical day transformed into something a little different. I now had a highlight.

You never know who you are going to meet or the impact they may have on your day, maybe even your life. A smile or simple hello can go a long way. So I encourage you, and myself for that matter to: Take Out your Ipod. Put Down your cellphone. Smile. Say hello. Acknowledge other people. Someone just might make your day or who knows, maybe you’ll make theirs.