Talking to Strangers

I sat next to an elderly gentleman, named George, in a surgical waiting room this morning. His first comment to me was that the sun outside was a welcome change from the rainy weeks we’ve been experiencing. I agreed and we talked for a few minutes. Then, about a half hour later, a volunteer came over to give everyone an update on his or her family member. George’s wife had already been in surgery for over two hours at that point. He went on to tell me that they’ve been married for 52 years and that “she’s always taken care of me, so now it’s my turn to take care of her.” The conversation then continued with how she didn’t understand sports, but he didn’t understand all the cards she sent out. Then I told him that I, and quite a few of my close friends, are card-senders too, which led us to broader topics like grandchildren and aging and life. When the aide came over and told me I could go to my daughter’s room, I shook George’s hand and said, “I hope all goes well with your wife. It was nice talking to you George”, and I meant it. It was a small connection, in a place where loved ones are in surgery, and time moves much too slowly.

With all the bad going on in our world, it’s important that we talk to our children and grandchildren about not talking to strangers. This is different from how many of us were raised to always answer, and show respect to, adults even if we didn’t know them. How sad and tragic, but necessary.

Some adults rarely talk to strangers. That may be a by-product of being an introvert or painfully shy. It could also be that they simply don’t have any desire to communicate with people they don’t know.

Others can’t seem to ever be quiet, and they try to strike up conversations everywhere they go. Maybe they’re incredibly extraverted or they can’t wait to meet different people. It could be they just love to hear themselves talk.

I fall in the middle somewhere. I’m definitely an extravert on test scales, but I also love downtime and one-on-one conversations with those who are dear to me. There are times when I just need to “be inside my own head”, but more times when I generally love meeting and interacting with other humans—hearing their stories; listening to their experiences.

I’m often compelled to say something nice, to a perfect stranger, like “you have a beautiful smile” or “you would be great in management”—a little comment that’s honest and just might brighten another’s day.

One morning, in a diner, there was a couple about my age and a woman who I’m guessing was the mother of one of them. They didn’t talk to her at all, and she sat there timidly, seemingly trying to be invisible. It broke my heart. Of course, I have no idea what the back story was, but on my way out, as I passed their booth, I looked at her and said, “your blouse is really beautiful and you look lovely”. She smiled at me and that smile reminded me of my Mom whom I still miss daily. She said, “thank you”, with eyes full of gratitude. The best part, however, was that the couple looked at her differently, and as I walked away, I heard one of them say, “Mom, what would you like to do today?”

Irises that once bloomed in my Mom's garden.

Irises that once bloomed in my Mom’s garden.

There are times when silence is necessary and appropriate. There are times when uproarious laughter and animated conversation are part of the equation. There are times, too, when it’s okay to talk to a stranger, share a bit of yourself, and maybe—if you’re lucky—make one person’s day just a little bit brighter.

©2016 Peace Full Home/Intentional Living



4 thoughts on “Talking to Strangers

  1. I remember reading this one last year. What a great reminder. When my son was in the hospital recently, the woman who cleaned the room was the same one from our last stay a few years ago. She always had that complaining, angry attitude and I made it my goal to make her smile each day we were there. Sometimes she wouldn’t even be in our room but I would see her in the hallway. It didn’t take as much effort as I expected and after the first day, her smiles came easier. The saying, “If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You Always Get What You’ve Always Gotten” works for being positive too!

    Liked by 1 person

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