That guy who just smiled at you is dangerous. The cashier who asks how your day went is going to kidnap you if you tell him. It’s no coincidence that the person walking behind you is going to the same place, they’re following you. We have to stay away from strangers.
We have a deep-rooted suspicion of strangers. Adults or older students who we don’t know that approach us, strike a conversation, or even those who smile and say “Good morning!” set off alarms in our head.
So we try and end the conversation as quickly as possible. Just smile politely, avoid eye contact, and keep on walking. No need to spend time talking to someone you don’t know.
But here’s the things. When we cut off the conversation, when we walk away, we miss out on valuable advice, friendships, even opportunities. Strangers can make your day, give you perspective, and even change your life. So why do we avoid them? Where does it start?
From a young age, we’ve been taught by our parents to avoid strangers. And that makes sense. As a kid, we can easily be scooped up in a white van and carted away without anyone knowing.
But the candy-offering kidnappers of the past are a minority. The vast majority of people on the streets are nice people. I mean when was the last time a stranger reached out from their white van and offered you candy? The last time for me was the ice cream truck a few years back. And I don’t even see many ice cream trucks anymore. Either way, I’m sure that by now, you’ve learned not to take candy from strangers.
THE SUBWAY STRANGER
Strangers are nice people. Last weekend, I went to get a sub, a nice footlong meatball marinara. The guy preparing it was in his twenties, had a heavy Indian accent, and was rightfully amused because I didn’t know what type of bread I wanted.
I didn’t have any cash on me, so I decided to use my debit card. I swiped it once, entered the PIN and then…. DENIED. Ok.... so I tried it again and … DENIED. One more time? DENIED.
At this point, I was flustered and embarrassed. If I couldn’t pay, then I had just wasted this guy’s time. Apologizing profusely, I started to grab my stuff and leave when the guy smiled and said:
“Hey man, don’t worry. I can pay for it.”
“What? Really are you sure?”
“No problem buddy, enjoy your sub!”
Then he took a $10 bill from his pocket and dropped it into the cash register. And like that, my $6 sub was paid for.
Yes, I’m going to pay him back, I’m going to run there on his Thursday shift and give him a $10 bill, and maybe a little more if he’ll accept it. Yes, the sub was already made, and it wasn’t that much money, but when that guy paid for me, he probably didn’t expect to be paid back.
In fact, he’s probably twiddling his thumbs right now wondering if that Asian kid is ever going to pay him back. He put a lot of faith in me, or at least he was willing to bet 6.90 that he would get his money back. That generosity made my day and is what inspired this post.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE HOW MUCH STRANGERS CAN HELP
When I really think about it, strangers have definitely taught me a lot and made my day.
One time, my partner and I were practicing a DECA case study at the library once. A father waiting for his kid overheard, and jumped in to offer us some advice. Turns out he was an HR consultant and manager. He talked about how he got to where he was today, universities and helped us out by talking about current trends in HR. Learned a lot from him and even used some of that information in cases at Provincials and ICDC.
When I went to Halifax to train for a lifesaving competition, it was my first time paddleboarding in the ocean. The first time I got into the water, there were 5-6 foot waves. After seeing me struggle, almost lose my board, and swallow a few litres of saltwater, one of the lifeguards at the beach came out, said hello, and gave me a bunch of tips. By the end of the day, I wasn’t getting tossed around anymore. I was riding those waves.
Strangers can be generous. Strangers can be kind-hearted. Really, strangers are people just like us, and we should see kindness and humanity in them. That should be the default, not “stranger danger”.
So the next time you see that father in the library, a lonely person walking beside you on the street, or the guy at the gym, don’t be afraid to just say hello. Amazing things can happen when you get out of your comfort zone and strike up a conversation.
Just try it. Trust me :)
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Leave a comment below!