You know those calls we all get where someone is trying to sell us something we do not want?
The ones where we hang up before they even finish their speech about who they are and where they’re from.
Last Sunday I was beginning to taste that rejection those callers receive every day.
As I walked up and down Shepparton’s Maude St Mall chasing down shoppers to hear their new year’s resolutions, I was reminded that carrying a big professional-looking camera, to the average local, is somewhat similar to carrying a large weapon — people saw me coming and steered clear at all costs.
I understand 100 per cent — I too would avoid the risk of being caught talking to a stranger for an unknown length of time about an unknown subject with no pre-planned escape route and having photo taken, with little notice, for all to see.
But my goal was to speak with eight people who were willing to make a comment and have their photo printed in the paper and so I laid aside the rejection and powered on.
With only one more to make up the eight I was taken by surprise when a man approached me, introducing himself as he got off his electric scooter to speak with me.
We got talking and he told me his name was Joseva Bau and he was visiting from Fiji.
After some time I asked whether he had a new year’s resolution, to which he paused before pointing to his feet saying ‘‘You wouldn’t believe it ...’’
He went on to tell me that the first 40 years of his life were spent walking on his toes due to a deformity from birth that had caused him severe pain.
He said that in 2015 he underwent surgery that changed his life forever and allowed him to walk normally.
He followed on by saying his new year’s resolution was to enjoy walking and not take it for granted.
As I stood and spoke to this man I began to think: the smile he displayed from the moment I caught his eye was a display of true gratitude.
I could see it in the way he approached me and the way he spoke — he was simply thankful for the life he had been given.
Unaware that he had only been able to walk properly for the first time three years ago, I was shocked to hear about his journey.
From a man I had not taken any notice of or thought any different to anyone else in the mall that day, I had suddenly been so humbled to speak with him and encounter his outlook on life.
Although I could have stood and spoken for hours with my new friend, I thought I had better return to work.
So I wished him all the best and told him it had been a pleasure to meet him.
Before I turned to walk away he asked me for a selfie.
So there we stood in the mall taking a selfie on his iPhone.
I must say that was the first time I have found myself taking a selfie with a stranger.
And while I would normally think that was slightly weird, I was so glad he asked because it is a photo I will look back on for many years to come and always be reminded of the following things.
Firstly his pure gratitude. But also that just because someone appears a particular way, does not mean that everything is or has always been smooth sailing.
Also that regardless of what we see, there is always a journey we have not walked ourselves, so I will be reminded to always be kind.
It is so easy to look at people who may look different to us and assume certain things about them or put them in a particular category without knowing anything about them.
We have all done it. But over the course of this year I am aiming to make an effort not to do that.
There is a story behind every person and I think we could each learn something from everyone if we would take the time to stop and listen.
Laura Briggs is a journalist at The News.