Don’t I know you?

Published 5:36 am Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I just love those random conversations when strangers meet. Today, I invaded the space of a young man at PJ’s Coffee Shop in Picayune. He had his stuff sprawled out in his “office” when I spied the only comfy seat in the establishment right next to him. Turns out I wasn’t interrupting a stranger’s solitude, but rather a high school friend of my son’s that I hadn’t seen in years.

It really is a small world, as they say. The friendly young man engaged in conversation almost immediately. Shortly into the conversation I discovered that he is in pharmaceutical sales. I have been trying to get a rent house ready today, so I shared a little about what I had been doing. When I mentioned that I was a retired teacher, I think that was the clue that made him realize he knew me. He said, “Hey aren’t you Manny’s mom?”

From there the conversation flowed more freely than ever. Before Hoyt left his “office” he had decided to call Manny and catch up with him. I hope he does. Many of those friendships we make in school are some of the closest we’ll ever make.

Why is that, do you think? Maybe none of us learn how to put on our masks until later in life. In high school most everyone is still trying to figure out who they are, and sometimes the road can be a little rocky. The thing that solidifies the bond between school friends, I think, is that most of us made some mistakes during those years, but so did everyone else.

So I suppose that has something to do with those friendships that stand the test of time. We don’t have to try to put on a good face with the people who knew us back then. We can simply be ourselves, and the really great thing is most of those old friends are our best cheerleaders. There is something so special about reconnecting with a friend from our past.

Hopefully, adulthood brings with it maturity and better choices. One thing that we don’t want to lose is the ability to be real. I think I’ve actually become more able to be my authentic self than when I was a younger person. I distinctly remember feeling uneasy in my skin all those years ago. I think that’s a pretty common feeling among teenagers, but I may have had a double dose!

Manny’s friend, Hoyt, appeared to be well-grounded and confident. I was most impressed when he shared his concern for the less fortunate. He is currently collecting used medical machinery that would otherwise be thrown away. His hope is to find an avenue to funnel these supplies to communities in need. I see a nonprofit in his future. What a joy to visit with this awesome young man full of great ideas and a heart for others.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at