Til We Are Strangers No More
I love talking to strangers and I am not really afraid of the whole concept of “stranger danger”. Since I was a child I have had the unique ability to connect and talk to strangers. I love talking to them and discovering their stories. Looking back, this must have frightened my parents, since both my brother Ryan and I love talking to new people, especially people significantly older than ourselves.
Now I am not talking about the people you are forced to meet at orientation, a business meeting, or socialized event. I am talking about the complete random people you never would have planned on meeting in such places like the subway, bus, department stores, or like today, the nail salon. Something about talking and learning about people I never would have had the opportunity to meet just energizes me and really puts my life into perspective.
Sometimes when we meet strangers we communicate in different ways. Sometimes we communicate with words and actual conversations, or we use our body language to convey a message to strangers. No matter where you go or what you do, you are conveying a message to those around you, even those you do not even know. That is why I always make a point to smile at strangers. I used to think that was weird until one bad day back during my freshmen year at Cornell. I was walking back to my dorm really bummed for some reason, when some stranger on the Ag Quad smiled at me and it seriously made my day. I didn’t know that person, but they communicated to me that there is still always a reason to smile.
Today, I had the privileged of communicating with four different strangers, all in four very different ways. I thought I would share this with you because these people inspired me and every day is a new opportunity to be inspired, so seize it. Talk to someone new.
Person 1: I have no idea who this woman is, what she does, but I can tell you one thing, this woman was unhappy today. Scowling and complaining the whole time at the salon, sending people dirty looks, and at one point stared at me, to what seemed like right into my soul. It made me and my friend, uncomfortable, and since there was nothing that I could do about it, I ignored it. But unhappiness is what this stranger communicated to me and how sad is that?
But what can we learn from that person? What I learned is that it is really important to be aware of the environment around you and no matter how you are feeling on the inside, people are perceiving you for what you are expressing on the outside. So constantly be expressing your best self. It is impossible to do it all the time, because lets face it, we all have really bad days, and who knows, today could have been that lady’s day. I will never know, but we owe it to ourselves to at least try to put our best selves out there to others. It might not always work, but as my dad says “at least you can say you tried it.”
Person 2: My nail technician is from another country and speaks very little English, making communication today very interesting. I have found it is really easy to get frustrated when people do not speak English, but now I see it as a challenge to still effectively communicate despite barriers that exist. We both used a lot of hand gestures and smiles to get our points across and I was impressed to how much I learned about this woman simply by watching her body language.
At one point she noticed my Catholic Saint’s bracelet and exclaimed “Catholic?” and when I replied “Yes!” her face lit up and then we had a little, but the most in depth of our conversations about what churches we go to and on what days of the week we attend mass. It was beautiful interaction in my eyes.
Person 3: Joan is the person that I talked to the most today at the salon and she is quite the woman! She talked to me about a variety of things and through conversation she knows my back story and I hers. I could tell immediately that Joan had such a passion for life and she was just so happy to talk to me and just have a good conversation.
Through verbal conversations we learn more about the people we see on the outside. Joan is a beautiful person inside and out. A person committed fully to her family, something I greatly admire. The world needs more people like Joan; equally willing to start up and commit to a conversation.
Person 4: I will call her Miracle Woman. Miracle Woman is in my opinion a walking ray of sunshine. As she was checking out she was having trouble walking because her hip, so someone politely asked her what was wrong and if they could help. Miracle Woman explained that years ago she had to have radiation on her hip and it has never been the same. Doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to bear children because of it, but today she has three beautiful kids and though her hip causes her problems, she wouldn’t change it for the world because God has blessed her in so many ways. Then she wished the person blessings, stating God is great to us all and went on with her day. How beautiful is that?
Just hearing Miracle Woman’s story inspired me. How many times do we complain about something, completely taking for granted all the blessings we have in our lives. This woman could have just gone on and on about how much pain she was in, but instead shared her story, praised God and went on with her day. Just. Like. That. Turning pain into positivity. She is something to admire.
Everyday, every moment we spend on Earth we are conveying a message to those we know and to those we don’t. We have silent and verbal conversations, but what are you actually saying? Is it positive or is it something that needs to be worked on? Do you shut out the world and text on your phone when you are around strangers or do you strike up a conversation? I know that it is easy to browse on our phones, I am guilty of it. Today helped me to realize that there is great potential for so much learning and even friendship when we communicate with strangers. We can learn, like with Person 1, that our negativity is noticed and can make people uncomfortable. We can pick up on non-verbal cues to learn more about a person or strike up a verbal conversation. Or we can simply be inspired by the person at the check out counter. None of this can happen though if we continue to tune out the world because we are attached to ourselves. Detach and become involved. I am not saying that talking to strangers is going to change the world, but you might be surprised how it just might change yours.