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Posted Sep 22 2008 11:05am
I used to be one of the shyest girls in the world. I followed my sister around everywhere, barely spoke to anyone, and kept to myself a lot. One of my teachers in elementary school even exclaimed her astonishment to my mum one time when I actually laughed out loud in class.

I'm still shy in my own way, but I'm much more open than I used to be. This is partly because I don't really have much choice; strangers seem to like talking to me. I think its because I appear so non-threatening that no one is too intimidated to speak to me, whereas they might be with other (taller?) strangers.

Because of this, I've come to really enjoy talking to random strangers. The brief conversations we have are nearly always silly, quirky, thought-provoking, and friendly. Not too long ago I was approached by a guy who starting walking down the street with me, trying to guess my name and then leading me into a store and suggesting that he buy me a zebra statue. Another time, a guy came up to tell me a joke as I walked across a bridge. Someone else who was mowing the lawn borrowed my lighter (I have it especially to use for fondues. Really. And, incidentally, was given it by another random person at a gas station) and struck up conversation as he took a break from his work.

One of my nicest encounters was on my walk to work, a couple months ago, when an old man was walking his dog. "You're late today," he said. "What?" "Usually you walk past here at about 9am. You're late today." I imagine that he sits in his living room every morning, watching the world go by before taking his dog out for a walk. And he had grown accustomed to seeing me walk by his house every day. There is something sweet in knowing that someone you knew nothing about notices you.

There have also been times when I have not stopped to speak with a stranger when I know now that I should have. Seeing a child alone in a mall. Hearing someone crying in the bathroom. Passing people who just looked like they needed a break.

And so it was that yesterday I came across a girl in her mid twenties who looked as though she were crying. Rather than continuing on my way, I stopped her to ask what was wrong. This girl poured her heart out at the first signs of encouragement, speaking so quickly and in such frustration that I could barely understand her, but it wasn't meant to be really understood by me. She just needed to vent. And when she was done, she squeezed my hand and thanked me and walked away with a calmer expression on her face.

There's something about a stranger listening that does something a friend cannot. There are no obligations or expectations within the relationship between two strangers. A stranger is not getting anything from listening, not the way a psychiatrist or a therapist gets your money. I think thats why I like to talk to strangers. There's a genuine aspect in the bond between two strangers and a sort of innocence that cannot be found in a regular friendship. A stranger offers what a friend cannot.

Everyone have a great weekend and have fun getting out there, meeting new people as you go! You won't regret talking to a person that you normally would pass by. And you might just make their day by doing so.
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