My mother always told me never to talk to strangers. That was pretty high up on the “don’t do list,” right along with, “don’t ride your bike to a pharmacy at 8:00 am without my permission.” Because—Yes I did that on multiple occasions, with my next door neighbors, until we got caught. We weren’t buying drugs…well…we weren’t buying illegal drugs—just enough caffeine and sugar to get us to the next sun rise.
When my mom found out that I had been sneaking off with the boys, I was punished for a length of time that felt like centuries. Thank god that punishment didn’t deter me from going against my mother’s rules for the rest of my life…because I’d never have many of the friendships or networks that I currently have now.
You see, I learned much too quickly that if you never talk to strangers, you’ll never make new friends—and that is especially true in what I consider to be my home now: New York City.
As I turn to my left, a man with a Bruins hat smiles as he watches people walk by. I ask if he is from Massachusetts. Of course he is. But I ask anyway. “I grew up there.” “Congratulations,” I say, “That Stanley Cup, it was a long time coming.” We continue talking for a few moments and then bask in the sunlight.
I turn to my right and a man’s Iron Man drawstring bag is exposed for passer-bys to see. I reach out and ask if he has ever ran one.
“3, actually,” he modestly says without breaking a stride in his facial expression.
We continue to speak for fifteen minutes—me in awe of his accomplishments—him attempting to convince me that a triathlon is definitely in my future. We laugh. We compliment one another’s accomplishments. We talk some more. And then we exchange business cards, and not before long…he is on his way.
Strangers are amazing people. They can teach you about life, about an event, or about yourself—and in a brief moment, they can become your friend.
A good friend of mine from college recently pointed out that I have this ability to get along with anyone, to reach out, to spark a conversation, to laugh, to make a joke, with just about anyone that I meet. It’s the exact reason why she never worries about bringing new friends of hers out to meet me. In fact, I’ve even begun spending time with her friends, while she’s away for the summer. Why? Because they’ve become my friends too. And that’s why I love people—and why I love talking to people, and why disobeying one of the world’s most golden rules, is the best decision I continue to make on a daily basis.
Because that’s what life is about—meeting people, connecting with people, forming friendships, forming relationships, creating bonds—imagining together—developing life-long dreams with.
I say: Talk to all the strangers in the world because you never know what he or she will do for you—or what he or she will become to you. Strangers really are just friends we haven’t met yet.
….But if you do happen to be under 15 and a stranger in a white van offers you candy, please, please, please…Just say no.