Talk to Strangers
One of the first instructions that we hear as children is ‘don’t talk to strangers’. Like a neon sign that flashes a warning in a frightened, exclusionary bubble each time we interact with someone new, the imperative shapes us profoundly as we make our way in the world.
Our online lives exacerbate this disconnectedness further as we slip into comas of aloneness by inserting earbuds or glancing at tiny screens effectively shutting ourselves off from strangers or even family members that are seated right next to us on the bus ride home.
Unfortunately, as we age no one encourages or even tells us to begin to talk to strangers again.
We’re communicative creatures that somehow choose to defer to unnatural isolation and fear as opposed to understanding and enlightenment. Not every new encounter or conversation is profound, but it forms an interconnectedness that has the power to change both participants.
Meet Sayeed Muhammad. I stepped out of my introspective cloud and had a conversation with Sayeed next to the Iranian Ministry of Culture building in Manila this morning.
I learned that Sayeed, who is Iranian, is on a hunger strike as he sits outside of the gates of the walled and gated compound. He is protesting his displeasure that his government is misrepresenting the pearl of glory and wisdom that is a 5000 year old Persian culture.
Whether or not he is successful in his campaign is something that might or might not have impacted my life until I made him a part of my life’s conversation … my personal story.
I wished Sayeed well as I moved on to another encounter on the street. In passing, he whispered with a smile that I was the first person that had spoken with him in the seven days that he has sat outside the cement barrier.
Do yourself and everyone else a favor. Embrace your humanity.
Talk to Strangers