Strangers have gotten a bad rap for a while now. I’m not sure when it all began, but for sure this child of the 80’s was raised on “Stranger Danger”.
Strangers are bad. Stay away from strangers. And for sure, don’t talk to strangers.
And while that’s all fine and good for young children, I can’t help but feel that life philosophy follows us into adulthood.
I get that my personality lends itself toward talking to strangers. I meet people in the grocery store, at the airport, and sometimes at the turquoise table. The idea of missing a connection is what spurs my chit-chat with complete strangers.
Because, really, we all have a lot more in common than we realize.
Wanna know what I find happens when you talk to strangers:
- Shared experience
- Mutual friendships are discovered
- Others become less scary
- The world becomes more inviting
Beautiful things happen.
Truly, it’s a small world after all. I came to that conclusion while I was in the duty-free store in the Amsterdam airport. When I showed my passport, the cashier noticed my last name and asked if I had family in Honduras. Before it was over, she had gone to grade school with my uncle.
From that moment, I knew that this world was much, much smaller than I had ever realized.
I moved a lot as a kid. I bounced around the south for much of my elementary school years, and then landed in Maryland for a quick stint in the fourth grade. There I met Tiffany. We were fast friends. Sleepovers, roller-skating parties, overall wonderful 4th grade fun.
Then I moved. Again.
We kept in touch, but I moved to Nebraska, so it wasn’t the same.
That’s when I met Carissa. We, too, became fast friends. Sleepovers, rollerskating, and I would stay with her when my dad was deployed.
Fast forward 26 years.
I get a message from Tiffany (with whom I reconnected with thanks to Facebook) saying she met Carissa at the airport.
Tiffany works at the airport and Carissa travels overseas often and finds herself at the airport frequently. The two struck up a conversation, exchanged FB info and discovered they already had a mutual friend….Me. #talktostrangers
I made a new friend at church a few weeks ago. I invited her over to a post-game party at my house on a Friday night. (Much props to her for coming to a party that was nearly 100% strangers.)
As I was making my hostess rounds, one of my friends struck up a conversation with her. They found that they had “people” from the same general area. Not only that, after a quick phone call to a mom, they discovered that their grandmother’s were sisters! #talktostrangers
A few weeks ago, I was traveling to Indianapolis from Lincoln, via O’Hare. As I was waiting to board in Lincoln, I made a comment to the woman sitting next to me.
She looked at me with big eyes and and said that she doesn’t speak English.
Well, she was in luck, because this outgoing gal speaks a bit o’ Spanish. So we chatted, even if I did conjugate verbs like a 3-year-old. I learned that she was traveling from Ecuador to Springfield, IL for a work conference.
I also learned that her travels took her from Ecuador – Houston – Denver – Lincoln – Chicago – Springfield.
On the bright side, she was traveling in the right direction. Anyway, once we got to Chicago, I made a quick call for her to make arrangements for her ride when she got to Springfield. She was so appreciative of my help.
She even gave me a token, a postcard of her hometown.
Why do I not travel with little tokens to hand out to all of my new friends?!
If I had sat next to her and not said a word, she would have been all alone in an English-speaking world, navigating through nearly 24 hours of travel. #talktostrangers
There’s a whole world out there waiting for you to discover it.