Seems simple, right? I mean, everyone’s been told that since the beginning of time. Don’t talk to strangers! They might kidnap, pillage, plunder, and rape your being. Best to just stay away.
The problem is, though, that that used to apply only to the creepy, fishy-looking strangers. Those who seemed like bad news or predators, you were supposed to stay away from. And maybe if you were a woman, you were told to avoid men who you or your family didn’t know (because there weren’t really many rape laws back in the day). But if the people you were around seemed relatively normal, it was perfectly okay to say hello, introduce yourself, and start a conversation. In fact, that was almost expected.
Fast forward to today, however, and, with a world full of sensationalism around murders, rapes, kidnappings, beatings, and just general weirdos, saying hi to a stranger isn’t acceptable. Rather, we are told to stay aware, avoid all eye contact, and walk as quickly as we can, for you never know who’s lurking in the bushes waiting to take you.
It seems a bit ridiculous, right? But that’s exactly how we act! We treat strangers as if they’re all crazy when, in reality, they’re just like us. They, too, are perfectly normal. They, too, are too afraid of others to be able to walk down the street and say hello to the pretty lady in the blue skirt. They, too, are too terrified that that pretty lady might just be a psychopath and end up stalking and murdering them to even smile.
It’s either that or they’re just scared that she’ll think they’re the psychopaths. After all, who even acknowledges a complete stranger anymore?
But that’s the problem. We’ve become so caught up in our own little fears of the outside being bad and mean and judgmental that we’ve forgotten just what it’s like to live in a world full of civility and chivalry, full of hellos and how-do-you-dos. We’ve become so afraid of the rare circumstances called “bad outcomes” that we’ve turned kindness and making friends into a peculiarity, an evil, even.
I mean, honestly, what really are the chances that that stranger you walk by every day on your way to school or work or wherever it is you’re going will hate or hurt you for saying hello? If they hate you, well, then so be it; you can’t please everyone. But if they hurt you? Come on, if they wanted to hurt you, they would’ve done so by now. After all, you do walk by them every single day.
Chances are, that person would love a friendly hello. Chances are, that person will flash a smile, say hi back, and then go on the rest of their day feeling special, for someone else in this world actually thought they were worthy enough of saying hi to. It’s like when your mom says you look nice versus when one of your friends says so. [Insert “Thanks, Mom” joke here.]
Strangers acknowledging you just genuinely feels great!
Except when that person’s a freak, of course. Creepy people singling you out is never pleasant, which is why creeps were the ones we used to get told to avoid.
But again I’ll ask, how often are the people we encounter actual creeps? Not very.
So, in honor of not talking to strangers, let’s talk to strangers! That may seem a bit hypocritical–and it may terrify some–but what better way to pay homage to something that may not be right than to do the opposite? What better way to start a new trend than to go directly against the old one? Who knows, maybe talking to strangers will clear us of our fears and make the world a better place!
Sure, that may seem far fetched now, but just wait and see! Great things come in tiny packages, and a little deed goes a very long way (because it inspires others to do the same). You starting or actually participating in the daily conversation at the elevator may inspire others to go out of their way and do the same, thus causing everyone to feel great. And who knows what could happen from there?
What I do know is that the girl I spoke with at the elevator this morning has certainly sparked something deep inside me. Sure, maybe I’m introverted, but she’s brought out a new Leah, a Leah who will get over it and actually talk to strangers, who will try to make the world a better place by showing others that there’s someone out there who cares.
And even if I never actually change the whole world, hopefully I’ll maybe at least make one person a little happier along the way.