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And so I hugged a stranger on a beautiful autumn day

He paused to examine a strange, twisted piece of metal along the path we had just decided to take down the hill. "Hmmm" I thought, enjoying our so far solitary walking space. "I hope he either waits until we have passed to start walking again, or goes quickly now, before we reach him." Of course, he stood up exactly as we were coming alongside, and it would have been more awkward not to acknowledge each other. "Beautiful day for a walk," I said, hoping this casual statement would lead to a quick and smooth crossing of paths.

It was a crisp, blue, early afternoon and the warmth of the sun eased conversation. Where at first I hoped our paths would diverge after the initial greeting, I would not have believed I would be suggesting that we should hug a short 30 minutes later.

Of course, after we had walked a fair few kms and he had told me about his family, as well as the two most profound experiences of his life, it is probably fair to say that we weren’t strangers anymore.

He was respectable, dressed for the weather and a good walk. He and his wife had recently retired and were visiting their daughter. He walked daily and enjoyed this park (our park, I thought, as my kids and I lovingly refer to it).