in milan's majestic, facist inspired train station there is an enormous, flip character train schedule that rat-a-tat-TATs the day away. one muggy july afternoon, damn near a decade ago, i sat directly beneath the board as strike inspired delays bore the day away. after the second or third hour of frustration, i noticed a cute little girl peeking and smiling at me from around her mom's shoulder.
once she directed her attention my way, i did my best to maintain it by crossing my eyes, flipping a coin as high as the board and generally just goofing around. eventually, with nothing else to do, and with her parent's tacit, if unspoken, permission, i spent the next few hours ignoring the board entirely as i challenged the girl and her brother to "quarter basketball," gave them airplane rides and found any number of ways to keep us occupied. as the evening came to an end and the board finally announced my potential departure, the parents used the few english words they knew to tell me that they were croatian refugees who were fleeing the serbian campaigns of ethnic cleansing, which were apparently proceeding even throughout the american bombing. that chance encounter taught me how small the world really is and ended up being the most meaningful experience i had in two weeks of european travel.
right now i'm not stuck in a milanese train station, but i am adjusting to a demanding new job where the incessant rat-a-tat-TAT of the clock reminds me of grant deadlines, donor events, and quarterly revenue reports that are constantly drawing one second closer. i hope in the midst of the swirling excitement and fear i don't miss out on the relationships and chance encounters that will ultimately mean so much more than one more personal win or loss.