My best friend was shopping in our local Big W a few years ago when an unexpected announcement came over the PA: “Best-selling author Diana Gabaldon is currently in the store and signing copies of her books.” This is the Diana Gabaldon who wrote the wildly popular Outlander series—with more than 26 million copies in print, in 23 languages. Salon magazine described Outlander as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.” And now it’s a major TV series with a massive following—my best friend and I included.
You can imagine how excited she was to have happened upon this book signing. She already had all the books and had read them several times, but bought another one so Diana could sign it. It was the strangest thing that this world-famous author with an international cult following was hanging around in the same shopping centre in Canberra where we’d busked on brass instruments as kids and got our first part-time jobs as teenagers…
Truth be told it’s not the only slice of magic to have unfolded in that Big W store unexpectedly. I was there one Christmas Eve and it was stiflingly hot as the air conditioners had broken. People were queued half-way back in the store with trolleys laden with gifts, and everyone was harried and ‘over it’. Next, the lights went off. All the cash registers went down. You could hear a pin drop.
I closed my eyes and waited with bated breath for the inevitable uproar of complaints from people who just wanted to get their loot and get out of there. Instead, a lone man far back in the queue started singing. “Dashing through the snow…”
One by one, people joined in until hundreds of frustrated shoppers had formed an impromptu mass choir that went on to sing an entire set of carols, wholeheartedly. It became one of my all-time favourite Christmas memories.
We don’t have to be leading traditionally ‘glamorous’ lives, in exotic places, to be able to experience beautiful things. Extraordinary opportunities sometimes unfold much closer to home, provided we’re open to noticing and receiving them.