Once in a while you meet someone you didn’t quite expect and that person ends up imprinting a part of themselves onto you, whether they were intending to or not. And yet, you walk away from that experience being extremely grateful.
Hospitality and friendliness among the Scottish people is no secret. My friend and I experienced this throughout our travels around the countryside in guesthouses/B&Bs we stayed in, distilleries we visited, etc. Back in 2019, my friend’s Uncle Jimmy greeted me at the airport then welcomed me into his home for the night and hosted me for a full day taking my jetlagged self around Glasgow and treating me to a classic Scottish dinner: spicy curry. (A small side benefit to worldwide colonialism is bringing some tasty cuisine back to your home kingdom.) I recall how much the whole day and experience of his openness blew me away because I had only met him adjacently *one time* at my friend’s wedding seven years prior. I still talk about it with friends when that trip to Scotland comes up.
A similar opening of arms and heart greeted us upon this visit to Glasgow. On our last day in Scotland, Tim and I met up with a local whom he had met three years prior at a pub. We’ll call this local Allan because that’s his name. He told Tim next time he was in town to let him know and that they’d meet and hang out again. Promises were made and words were kept. After breakfast, Allan met up with us in our hotel lobby to be our local city guide. We had provided no guidance or clues on what we wanted to do, so Allan took us on a walking tour as he saw fit. He would not so discreetly be looking up factoids on his phone if he didn’t know something and be admirably patient with our indecisiveness when he’d ask, “what do you want to do next?” as we’d simply shrug nary a thought to be found in our heads.
What struck me with Allan, similarly to Uncle Jimmy (I have adopted him), was how open and friendly he was from the onset of first meeting me – and as I’m told also with Tim during their first encounter – without knowing me from Adam. And yet not only that, but also all the generous and mindful actions he took towards two relative strangers: picking up drink/meal tabs, transit tickets, observantly noticing when I felt out of place at the pub while a football (“soccer”) game was on, and making sure we “did something I wanted to do next,” to so thoughtfully buying me a nice tea mug “just like he has at home” to keep us connected after I returned. He had no reason to be so kind, yet I am eternally thankful to have been a recipient of his joyous and giving spirit.
Oh, he had some unexpected party tricks up his sleeve like balancing a full Guinness atop the edge of an empty glass and he did it with such elegance and humility.
We don’t have enough Allan’s in the world. We need more people with no ulterior motives or expectations of anything in return in our interactions and relationships. I’ve already been marinating on how I need to change my perspectives and heart to embrace this type of more open and generous living.
What if we didn’t look upon strangers and new people with a side eye and so much caution? What if we worked towards having a more generous and welcoming presence to strangers who may one day turn into friends? Truly, nobody is a stranger in Scotland. I already have an invite to come back to visit Allan and I’m going to work on how to make that happen in the not too distant future.
And the teacup is lovely.