There are no strangers in this world…

…only friends you have not met yet. — William Butler Yeats

It was October 31st, 2013 (Halloween) when a simple tweet connected me to two amazing folks in the Bay Area.

I shared the TED talk on the Danger of the Single Story with Ankit Shah and Megan Gebhart in my tweet because I thought “wow, these guys are definitely fighting against this danger!”

Ankit Shah first started a personal project called “Tea With Strangers” his last year of college realizing as time was dwindling down to the last six weeks that many of the social constructs formed in the first three years of college were dissolving. He put out a calling to the community — “ If we don’t know each other yet, let’s change that.” In return, he got stories. And if he has learned one thing, it was how to create a sense of belonging and care by practicing the Art of Listening.

When he moved to the Bay Area, he brought “Tea Time” with him dedicating evenings for tea (and yogurt!) creating a quite magical opportunity for a group of six strangers to meet and have really substantial conversations about life, fear, success, motivations, pizza, and everything in between. I say magical, because I attended a tea time and it’s one of those things you have to experience for yourself to fully fathom. For my tea time, I got the chance to meet with an architect pursuing law, a biologist interested in public health, and a girl from my university – same major! You really realize how small the world is.

Megan Gebhart, a fellow SF transplant, started her personal project, a yearlong experiment called “52 Cups of Coffee,” in 2010. Each week for a year, Megan sat down to coffee with innovators in technology, design, and entrepreneurship to learn life lessons on failure, success, and passion. The transformative experience inspired her to chase her dreams of travel and taught her the power of a simple cup of coffee. In 2013, Megan took a trip to Antarctica (!!!) to top her list of 28 countries and 6 continents already traveled. And in September 2013, she made a tough decision to leave the comforts of her 9-5 job and restart the 52cups series (from chats with Steve Wozniak, Elle Luna, and Jessica Hische). I’m really grateful for my tweet in October! Megan, I know we just met a few months ago, but I see us being good friends. Okay, Ankit – you too. :)

SO what’s next?

TONIGHT, Ankit is hosting a workshop on the “Art of Listening” at UC Berkeley. While most attendees will be students and graduate students, Tea With Strangers will also be happening every day in San Francisco in the first half of May (A different host for each day!) Stay tuned for updates and sign up! It will be a grand time.

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Megan is working on an eBook and new website for 52 cups (exciting times!) and if you are lucky, you could get the chance to hear Megan at one of her upcoming speaking gigs! Check out the recent TEDx talk she gave at TEDxDFS in Illinois. A diverse set of external speakers were invited to provide a perspective on eight core values: Doing the Right Thing, Innovation, Simplicity, Collaboration, Openness, Volunteerism, Enthusiasm and Respect. Megan does a great job covering Openness and what happens when you are open to connection.

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