My friend says I should call this “How to Talk To Strangers” but you know, since I rarely believe in strangers anymore, I’ll leave the title as is, as this project feels like magic. It makes me so happy to listen to these stories and then share them. Oh, for the love of humans! “This project” is the What Made You Happy Today Project. I stop anyone I can and ask them that question. And I listen. I mean I reallllly listen, despite my hearing loss. I am doing a challenge on my instagram with this project so follow me there at @jenpastiloff.

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“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” ~ W.B. Yeats  @JenPastiloff (Click to Tweet!)

I watched this adorable old man cross the street by my house in Santa Monica as I was running. It took him a long time. He had a walker. He walked very, very slowly.

I stopped running and waited for him.

“Can I ask you a question? What made you happy today?” I asked.


Me: Do you speak English? Where are you from?

Him: I am Armenian.

Me: What made you happy today?

He laughs. He’s got all his teeth.

Him: I don’t understand question.

Him: You make me smile.

Me: I do? That’s the question!! What made you smile today.

Me: How old are you?

Him: If you don’t count night times, I tell you.

Me: If I what? Come over at nighttime? (Being nearly deaf I can barely understand him with his Armenian accent and the traffic. We’re standing on a street corner.)

“If you don’t count night times, I tell you how old I am. I am forty-six”

“Come on. You’re not 46 years old.”

“I told you. If you don’t count night time while I am sleeping I am forty-six years old.”

Him: Sometimes I take bus. Sometimes I walk. Walk better. I take deliberate action. My doctor says, “if you are suffering or crying, better to walk, better than magic.”

Me: Better than magic?

Him: Better than medicine! (Me. Deaf ears. Him, heavy accent.)

Me: Ok, if you’re crying it’s better to walk? Better than medicine? I like that.

Bus goes by.

Him: How old are you?

Me: Thirty-nine.

Him: Thirty-nine? My youngest daughter is fifty years old. I have three daughters.

Me: Fifty? That’s weird because you’re only forty-six.

Him: Walk. Walk better. Walk medicine.

Me: Walk medicine?

Him: Better than medicine, I said. Doctor fix one side, make worse other.

Him: My business. Earthquake. Took it down. I started my occupation in 1935. 1946 I came here in Santa Monica.

Me: What was your business?

Him: Tailor.

Me: Tailor? That’s why you dress so nice! (He’s got an argyle sweater and a Kangol hat on even though it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. He’s dressed to the nines, my new friend.

Him: My son. He’s a tailor.

He leans back on his walker on the corner like it’s a little chair. He tells me that he does yoga. Do I know yoga? he’s asking me. He has been doing it for twenty years, he says.

He tells me he is ninety-two. I tell him I am a yoga teacher.

I’m just saying – people are the shit. Like, if you really talk to them. If you really look at them.

I am going to do more walk medicine. It’s magic.

Post below what made you happy today! Stay tuned to my instagram for the #whatmademehappychallenge. See you at a workshop soon. Love you, Positively Positive tribe. YOU make me happy! xo, jen

Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat: On Being Human in Ojai, California over Labor Day as well as New Years. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand more. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you (Dallas, NYC, Seattle, Atlanta, Miami, South Dakota etc,). Jen is the guest speaker 3 times a year at Canyon Ranch and leads an annual retreat to Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health every February, as well as an annual retreat to Tuscany. She is the founder of the popular The Manifest-Station blog. Jen and author Lidia Yuknavitch (“The Chronology of Water”) will be leading a Writing + The Body Retreat Jan 31-Feb 1. Follow Jen on Instagram and Twitter.

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