Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Simple Suggestion #211... Talk to strangers

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking the dog and came upon an elderly man sitting on his bike at a bus stop. Curious, I couldn't help but ask if he was planning to put his bike on the racks many of our buses have now and ride around another part of the city. "No, no," he said. "I'm just waiting here for the 307. I've locked my bike to the sign here, and the bus will take me to the mall for breakfast with my friends. And when I get back, my bike will be waiting." He then proceeded to tell me about his friends, and the 307's route, and his plan to check out the Dollarama for deals. Then the bus appeared and he boarded it, wishing me a nice walk. We had chatted for perhaps five minutes, and his cheerful outlook on life as the "old guy on a bike" (as he called himself) had made my day.

As I walked away, I couldn't help but think how glad I was that I had taken a risk and talked to a stranger. And I wondered how many other interesting strangers I had missed along the path of my life. Hopefully, not too many. I've always had an intense interest in people, and though I'm an introvert, my curiosity often gets the best of me, and I ask people about themselves. I've learned that it's unusual to have a stranger refuse to answer an honest question -- and that quite often, they're happy to talk about themselves, revealing very interesting things that I would never have learned if I had kept my mouth shut. Last week I learned that we experienced exceptional weather on the North Sea coast, and that in the summer, there are always crowds of people present when the last post is played at the Meningate in Ypres, Belgium.

I've never been one to tell my kids not to talk to strangers. I've told them to be polite to strangers, and of course, to back away or find help if a stranger makes them feel uncomfortable or frightened. And when my girls have been out in public with me, I've been known to strike up friendly conversations with people I don't know in the grocery store or at the playground. Stranger danger can be real, but bad strangers generally don't lurk around every corner the way they do on crime shows and the TV news. I often think we North Americans are just too afraid of each other, and that we need to reclaim the ancient peoples' exhortation to "welcome the stranger," not to mention "care for the widow and orphan" in our daily lives.

That's why I was delighted to find this video. Good on Robbie Stokes for starting his own movement to get more people talking to strangers once again. Our trip to Europe has provided many opportunities to talk with strangers in France, Belgium, and now, England, and from what I've seen, it seems many people are jumping on the bandwagon and talking with us, too. Maybe all of us strangers who talk to each other and make connections will make the world a better place.

Video from KarmaTube

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.


  1. Strangers made my trip in Peru a pure delight!


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