Talking to Strangers
“Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.”―
We grew up believing that we shouldn’t talk to strangers. It’s probably one of the most common ways parents want to safeguard their children’s safety. We all know the drill. If someone approaches you but you don’t know them, better go away. As a kid, I followed that religiously, up until now if truth be told.
But what does this concept mean to me as an adult now?
A ‘stranger’ is someone you don’t know, someone who you might have met but haven’t been made acquaintance to because they don’t belong to a certain group. Do people you meet online count? Are those who you interact with only virtually and digitally but not personally on the ‘stranger’ category? If they are, then I’ve had my most meaningful conversation with a stranger recently.
My day wasn’t going well on that particular date. And one of my unhealthy habits is posting it on my social media account when I am feeling so.
The photo on the left is the exact message. It was short, lethargic and demotivating. It is just one of those days since pandemic. It’s like my life’s different modes but no on/off switch. It just automatically changes.
Moments later, around five minutes since posting, I received a notification for new message. Upon opening, it was a comment on my post. It says,
” Same here. Sad,isn’t it? Are you okay?”
I checked the sender. It was a familiar name but I can’t recall who the person may be. I checked the profile and it showed that we are friends on facebook. I looked a little bit more, looking for signs of previous or past interactions and there it was. He is an aspiring artist whose song I liked and shared on my SNS account not too long ago. He somehow saw it and left a simple ‘thank you’ message. And that was it.
I have friends and family whom I talk to a lot, but the message just hit differently this time. It’s probably about the timing. I wasn’t looking for someone to talk to nor planning to talk to anyone until I realized I actually needed it.
I hesitated. I didn’t know what to say or if I even need to respond. Ignoring it seemed rude. It took a while before I decided to reply. I sent a noncommittal message. It was terse but polite. I wasn’t expecting anymore response but then, seconds after I clicked ‘send’, he saw it and the screen indicated that he was typing. It took a while. At first I thought maybe I was just imagining that he’s typing. I didn’t realize I was a bit expectant, and hopeful?
It took a while before I received his reply. I was surprised because it was quite long and wordy. The message felt personal and sentimental. It was not what I expected it to be. I felt like it was too much to know on the first conversation. I assumed it was sent to me by mistake and I should just ignore, but decided against it. In the end, I found myself giving an encouraging message, because that’s one thing I’m good at – saying and making statements for someone else but barely applies it to myself. It felt strange at first.
His next message moved me. It’s something I might have known but have never heard someone else say to me for a long time. “I think you are doing well.” Yes, he just thinks so because we don’t know each other well. When was the last time I heard those words? I’ve been on slump way before the pandemic. I just try to pull things through but not as satisfactory as I wanted it to be. His words was practically baseless, no grounds nor evidence to prove it. But it was impactful to me.
Yes, those simple words made not just my day a bit better but the way I look at myself, too. It’s the reason I was able to write this piece anyway. And when he said that he was grateful of everything I said, I felt that my words mattered a little that time; that they aren’t empty and meaningless.
The conversation was not too long but it was worth the time. We haven’t had another talk since then and that is better.
Why do we sometimes easily open up to strangers instead of to someone we already know? Well maybe because the fact that we are strangers to each other, there is no prejudice nor judgment to what we say. They only see things as we say it because they have no prior knowledge about us. Our friends may take our side, our enemies won’t listen and our families will always accept us no matter what we say or do, but strangers? They just listen.
Of course talking to strangers doesn’t always end up the way it did with me. It’s a double-edged sword. It could do as much harm as good. Just trust your instincts and don’t be too trusting on other people. Don’t judge me for falling easily to someone’s kindness. One thing I must tell you, I have always and will always believe in the goodness of everyone, no matter how small it may be. Also, I should end this with a powerful statement and it summarizes the value of words;
“Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you.” -KushandWizdom