“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.”
— Shirley MacLaine
Maybe we should take the ‘never’ out of ‘never talk to strangers’.
Case in point.
Tonight, my daughter and I got to the library 5 minutes after it closed.
A run across the parking lot and a gentle test of the front doors revealed two librarians frantically trying to close up shop.
“Is there time to get a book?” my daughter asked.
“Sorry we’re closed,” the librarian said with a sad face.
My daughter turned around, ready to head back out. “It’s just a hold book,” I then offered. “It’ll take just a second.”
The librarian looked at the clock. Looking back down at my daughter, she smiled and made a quick dash across the library, got the book, and checked us out in less than 30 seconds. I thanked her and we were back out the door with the precious book.
All we had to do was talk to a stranger.
The point here is just this. If we’re uncomfortable talking to strangers we’ll tend to avoid crowds, go out in public less, ask for anything which might draw attention to ourselves and meet fewer people.
The fewer people we meet the fewer opportunities we have because so many opportunities come from … other people.
This year of giving has given me practice in approaching strangers and talking with them. I’m less hesitant than before, I think primarily because I’m not asking them for anything. Instead, I’m asking if I can volunteer, help or listen.
I find that people are quite receptive to a sincere offer of help. They’ll often lower their barriers even if its just to politely say ‘no’. The more I give my time, the more comfortable I am around other people, even strangers.
Today, that comfort led to a book. Yesterday, at Potluck in the Park, it led to some enlightening conversations with the homeless and other volunteers. It’s becoming easier and easier to build connections, which present opportunities.
Comfort around strangers isn’t magic. It’s a skill that can be practiced. When we offer to help someone genuinely and honestly, we have a safe way to practice talking to people.
Took my daughter to two libraries to get a book. Thanks to the nice librarian who made it happen.
Note – The old adage is correct if talking to strangers will put you in physical harm. Please use common sense.