Posted by: smilecoach | June 13, 2008

Where are you from?

On our recent drive across the country as we returned to Michigan, we stopped for gas in eastern Colorado.  This pit stop was one of those where the only thing at the exit was the gas station.  Not one of my favorite types of places to stop.  However, when the gas tank is low and your bladder is full, you stop wherever you can.  This gas station was built many, many decades ago.  No new- fangled gas pumps that allow you to pay at the pump, you had to go inside to pay.  


To my surprise, the gentleman who managed the store was a delightful, engaging and a well read individual.  I say well read because when I told him I have published articles he reached down and pulled out a huge stack of magazines from under the counter.  The magazines covered every business topic from human resources to information technology.  The stop turned into a very delightful experience and an engaging conversation in a place where you wouldn’t expect one. 


During our conversation the station manager asked me a question that caused me to hesitate before I answered it and to think a great deal about it since we pulled away from that station two weeks ago. 


What is the one question that is always asked when you are traveling and you meet strangers?  You guessed it. The question is “Where are you from?”   


I had to hesitate when I answered.   Based on how the conversation was going, what I believe the manager wanted to know was “Tell me where you are from so that I will know how you view the world.”   If I told him we were from Las Vegas, he would have gotten an inaccurate impression.  Living for a little over a year in Vegas doesn’t make you from Las Vegas.   If I said Michigan, that would be even less accurate.  Even though we have owned our house in Michigan for 2 years, we have only lived in it for 6 months.  And since it has been 2 years since we lived in Chicago, that didn’t seem to fit.   My hometown of Pittsburgh is now ancient history after 30 years in Chicago.  What a dilemma. 


Unfortunately I can’t remember how I answered the question.  I just remember the feeling I had of not knowing how to describe where I am from. 


Perhaps I was reacting to the question behind the question, which was about how I viewed the world.  At this point in life, my view of the world is a combination of many places I lived and visited, books I have read, spiritual experiences I have had etc.  It is much broader than any one place or event.  The city I am from is no longer a descriptor of who I am.   It is not just the moving multiple times that makes answering the question a challenge.  It is many decades of searching for the real me.  Now that I have found it, how can I explain where I came from?


If I didn’t think folks would perceive me as being flippant, in the future I would answer the question, “ Where are you from?” by saying “Lots of places”. 


My thanks go to the wonderful gentleman in the gas station for asking me such an important question. 


How would you answer the question, “Where are you from?” 



  1. I found your site on Google and read a few of your other entires. Nice Stuff. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

  2. The same way I answer the question my Grandmother always asked;

    “How’s the weather?”

    So, one day when she asked me; “How’s the weather?” I said laughing; “Nana, why do you always ask me about the weather?”

    She looked me square in the eye, with a twinkle in hers and chuckled…..

    “Because, it’s the best way to get the conversation started!”

    (I’m from my Grandmother and live on Cape Cod where it’s 75 degrees, sunny and a slight breeze is rolling in-land from a calm sea.)

    Thanks Frank. Great topic and very thought provoking!

  3. I would probably answer, ” I am from everywhere, been a few places, done a few things, and I am still moving on. As to where I was born that was in Canada, Ontario, near Toronto to be exact. Are you from here? It seems like a great place to be. Like a little of every place I’ve been, ’cause there is something good every place you go and that’s where I am from too some place good. Thanks for asking.

  4. I like Terri ann’s answer. I am FROM my parents in Hamilton, Ohio, who packed the station and four kids and took us west every couple of years. I live on Whidbey Island Washington.

    The question I like when I meet a fellow traveler, especially on the plane “Coming or going?” There are stories on both ends.

  5. Thanks Terri Ann, Patricia and Mary Ellen for responding to my post. I am delighted to know where you are from.

    Grandmothers are great.

  6. I have two responses depending on who I am responding to:
    I am a free spirit in the universe.


    The Pleiades

  7. HI SMILE COACH and kindred spirit!

    First, I have to say I am writing because of where I am going, more then where I have come from. I too am a coach of smiles and google things like this from time to time and today…I am happy to have found YOU!

    I poked around and have read some of your posts and have gathered from your writing that I want to adopt you as my dad. LOL You are barely old enough and yet, mine is gone…so can I adopt you?

    Seriously, I love your stories. They are real, and heartwarming and they have the reader think about what’s truly important.

    I am a certified life coach so I work with people in this arena everyday. I have come to realize that many folks are really stuck in the muck, and dont smile anywhere near as much as they should. I am also in the end of a rather intense leadership program in which I had to come up with a Leaderhsip project. I came up with “The Smile Tribe!” the site is soon to go live, and I would love to share this with you. It is about creating a group of people, who are committed to: Connection, Compassion, Collaboration & FUN. This was born of a T-shirt I created that says “I Smile At Strangers”….which is REALLY fun to wear and watch the impact! So the long & short of it, is from the t-shirt experiment, I have created a project…that is launching in a few weeks. My goal it to have this T-shirt (currently in production & becomming trademarked) be out and about all over the place, creating connections, compassion, collaboration and FUN. THANKS for allowing me to share that with you…. 🙂

    And, so….because I google about smiling… I came upon you today. Thanks for your blog….I loved it and will come back to read again!

    Oh, and I am from: 1st 23 years just outside of Chicago, last 23 years out in Connecticut. So, I wonder just why I still refer to Chicago as “home”? hmmmm.

    Much Love & Laughter to you,

  8. Hi Leann,

    I can’t wait to get one of your t-shirts. What a great idea.

    There is untapped power in the smile to have an impact on many lives. I wish you lots of luck with your web site and please send me a link when it is completed.

    I have never been adopted as a dad before, however, I have been a mentor to several other coaches. Would that work?

    Once you have lived in Chicago, especially for 23 years, you are definetly fromChicago.

    Thanks for stopping by the blog and taking time to write. I appreciate it.

    I am sending you the energy of a bright smile,


  9. Hi Frank,

    So….now that I am thinking about Chicago…I realize that I am missing Portillos!!! 🙂

    Thanks for your lovely response to my post and I will be SURE to come back and share with you, when the Smile Tribe is up and smiling!!

    Love & Laughter to you,

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