23 Feb 2017

How to Shift the Perspective of a Stranger – without knowing it!


I was laden with bags – and an umbrella, so it must have been raining. I struggled to lift my heavy case on to the luggage rack, placed my umbrella beside it and silently told myself to remember to take it with me at the end of the journey. The windows were steamed up with the warm bodies on the inside and cold air on the outside. The train’s engine groaned as it pulled away from the station.

It was a new train. The upholstery was still clean, the textile fresh and smooth, not yet matted with use. I struggled out of my heavy coat, and looked for a place to sit. I manoeuvred my way in to a seat by the window and arranged my laptop and papers. That’s when I saw the white cake boxes, crisp and sharp and stacked. I looked up at their owner and smiled. There’s something about cakes that make me happy. I couldn’t see them, but knowing they were in the boxes triggered unspecific joyful memories. It occurred to me that every time I’ve eaten cake, I’ve been happy. I imagined the sugary smell and my taste receptors reacted involuntarily.

The cake-owner was blond and slim, with a red-lipped smile. I asked her about the cakes. Who were they for? What was the occasion? Where had she bought them? As the journey rumbled on, ‘cake lady’ told me about her passion for making cakes, how she’d learned to temper chocolate and make icing exciting. She talked tentatively about transforming her hobby in to a business but, well, she worked full time, and it was such a risk, and……she tailed off. She didn’t need to finish the sentence. I knew that she knew that she was stuck on the opposite side of the fence from making her dream a reality.

And then I asked her about part-time working, and gradual business building, and leads, and her passion, and what life would be like if…..if…..if……

And then the train drew in to the terminus. Cake lady took her cakes. I remembered my umbrella. We went our separate ways.

I can’t remember when that was, exactly.

But I was on a train again yesterday – this time it was the evening train. It wasn’t raining. It was cold inside and outside and the windows weren’t steamed up. I unpacked my laptop and got to work. I didn’t notice the train leave the station. As I paused for thought, I looked up and there was cake-lady: her blond hair and red-lipped grin seemed familiar to me. We smiled in mutual recognition. It took a while for me to recall the precise details of our conversation but as she sat down at the table in the seat opposite, my memory pieced it all together. I asked her if she’d made any cakes lately.

It was then that she told me – after our chance meeting she’d felt inspired to ask her boss if she could work part time. It had taken a couple of conversations to make that happen, but she was now building up her cake-making business while working part-time in her old job. She’d made the Shift. She was clearly delighted and excited about that Shift and what the future might hold for her and her cakes. She graciously told me that I had inspired her to make that Shift.

Her name, I learned, is Fiona and she describes herself as a ‘Cake and Treat Maker’ (don’t you just love that?) and you can find her at filiciouscakesandtreats.co.uk.

We all have an opportunity to shift the thinking of everyone we meet – even those that we encounter by chance. Whether it’s a warm smile to lighten their mood, or a few questions that enable them to shift their thinking and change the course of their life. Every contact is an opportunity to connect. How will your connections impact others today?