I was at an event last week that included an educational seminar and a two-hour riverboat cruise. (Yes, references were made to Gilligan’s Island.) There was only one person at the event whom I knew ahead of time, so virtually everyone I talked to was someone I was meeting for the first time – starting with the person I met in the parking lot who arrived at the same time I did. As we walked toward the dock, we chatted about the weather, the road construction, and the seminar we were attending. We also discovered that we both enjoyed theatre, and we talked about different shows we’ve seen, or would like to. We got on the boat feeling like old friends.

Same with other people who were seated at or near my table. As we talked about where we were from, what we did for a living, and our reason for coming to the event, common interests and experiences made it feel as though we had known each other much longer than we had.

Later on during the cruise, a conversation about my work in Uganda and a friend’s work in China led us into a discussion of languages and dialects. Two people who were standing near us joined in the conversation, as one of them had spent a great deal of time in India on business. He shared a lot of thoughtful information not only about language, but about culture and customs.

The person he was with didn’t say much, but added a few comments here and there. Then, after a question about where we were born, she and I realized that we grew up in towns less than 20 miles from each other. And when she mentioned going to Keepataw Days, an event held over the Labor Day weekend every year in my hometown, we discovered a lot more that we had in common.

Suddenly, this quiet woman – who hadn’t said much till now – and I couldn’t stop talking. Before long, we felt as though we must be related. We plan to keep in touch, and I’m sure we’ll find more common ground and mutual interests as we do.

Sometimes, it’s a stray comment or casual observation that sparks a discussion that leads to a longer conversation, and later grows into a deep friendship. Thinking about it now, I realize that some of my closest friends are people I once just happened to be sitting next to – at a meeting or event, or at the community pool or basketball practice when my kids were growing up. It makes me realize that even small talk can have a big impact when we take the time simply to talk with the people we meet in our everyday lives.

I hope I can always remember this – especially when I’m rushed and busy and preoccupied. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to meet and make new friends of people that are all around me – whether I’m walking down the street, flying around the world, or cruising down the river.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on June 4, 2015. ©Betty Liedtke, 2015

Has a stray comment or a casual conversation with someone you didn’t know well ever led to a long-lasting friendship or a romantic relationship? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Please be aware, however, that all comments will be moderated and approved before appearing on this blog, in order to protect all of us from unwanted spam.