Don’t talk to strangers.
This is one of the first pieces of advice that is driven into you from a very young age. Along with ‘Don’t accept candy from strangers’ or ‘Don’t get into a car with strangers.’ In fact, you’re pretty much barred from doing anything that involves new people.
As you get older though, you grow out of these rules. It is simple maths: if you don’t ever talk to strangers (or accept candy from them), it is likely you will end up sad and alone (and hungry) for the rest of your life.
Clearly, you have to judge how trustworthy this new person is before moving forward into something ‘terrifying’ -like a conversation- but at the same time, what is so wrong with just having a little bit of faith?
Take me for example. Sat alone in a bus stop today, I was approached by a young man who opened the conversation with ‘Wow I like the colour of your toe nails!’ accompanied by a girlish chuckle.
Needless to say, immediate alarm bells went off…which wasn’t helped by the fact that he was carrying a bag full of beer and clutching a selection of velvet cushions. (I never found out why).
But after a few minutes of this man giving me his life story and a blow-by-blow account of how many hours he’s been on buses in the past two days (a total of sixteen if you’re interested), I began to relax. There was nothing dangerous about him, nothing scary. In fact, when he then introduced himself as Leonard and shook my outstretched hand, I smiled. It turns out he was simply one of those rare people who are genuinely happy to meet others and just chat in the afternoon sun.
It made me wonder though: why are we all so quick to judge? People were actively moving away from Leonard-and why? Because he had long hair and was dressed slightly differently? It all just seemed so pointless. We have all become institutionalised to believe the worst of people and never wait around to give them the chance to prove us wrong.
So I’m not saying shake the hand of every stranger that walks past. But I am saying don’t turn your nose up at the first person who seems different to you.
You might just meet a Leonard.
And we all deserve a smile on a Friday afternoon.