I love it when complete strangers open up and discuss personal topics with me. 

I find these conversations riveting because they’re real. How’s the weather conversations, make me want to crawl into a fetal position.

I despise small talk.

Recently I spent 9 days in Tasmania visiting my family and friends. It was supposed to be 10 days, but Qantas canceled my flight on the way out (engineering problem) and rebooked me (without warning) on the 6 am flight out of Wellington the next day. When Qantas rebooks you on an Air New Zealand link, you cannot check in online and must get to the airport at a ridiculous hour…

My new flights meant a brief stopover in Auckland, and then Melbourne, before arriving in Devonport at 10 pm NZT. It was a long day!

But I quite enjoy traveling and find airports endlessly intriguing. I love people-watching. On this particular trip, I had an interesting conversation with a woman who works in government and fosters children.

She explained the paltry amount she receives for fostering high-need babies (about $30 a day). And yet, if that same child were designated for ‘respite care’ a family would get 5 times the amount.

Partway through our conversation, she turned, looked at me, and said, “I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you’re just so well put together. My kids always say, ‘Mum, why can’t you make more of an effort; why can’t you look more put together!?’”

I knew it was a compliment, but also a sad indictment of my obsession with how I look. That’s not an apology by the way. I know I have other talents, but clothes, shoes, and makeup always bring me joy.

I once described myself as deeply superficial to a friend because I can see my own ridiculousness and like to laugh at myself. She pointed out the oxymoron.

We all have our stuff…

But all I saw at that moment, was this amazing woman, who’d spent her life with her husband fostering babies and children. Welcoming them into her family and parenting them with love alongside her own kids.

It takes a very special person to do that. Making sure she looked ‘put together’ just wasn’t a priority for her.

So, I was not about to let her continue to put herself down. I thanked her for the compliment and added, “You know what? I think you’ve got your priorities right, and eventually, your children will come to see that.”

When we finished chatting, I wished her well for the next part of her journey and went to buy a refreshing drink.

Standing at the counter a young man turned to me and said “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but you look so stylish. What kind of work do you do?”

My ego swelled (can’t deny it!). “I’m a professional speaker” I replied, and another interesting conversation ensued as he was a psychologist interested in what I talk about.

But part of me felt a little bit sad and ashamed that I couldn’t reply “I foster children.”