I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we are all interconnected in this world. That there are so many ways we are all connected but instead of allowing ourselves to feel connected we often block ourselves off from the rest of the world with phrases like, “ugh, I hate people,” or “people suck.” I find myself there, too. I’m often dismayed by things I see in the news and wonder if there is any hope for humanity left. However, I got to thinking that some of the things that make my heart soar the most to read are stories about the kindness of strangers. I often see people posting articles like this on social media with the caption, “there is hope for humanity!”
I agree, but I think people fail to realize that we can be that hope. We are strangers, and we can help and do good.
For years Chris has given me a hard time about my inability to talk to people. If I can’t find something in a store, I’ve been more likely to walk out empty handed than ask an associate for help. I hate calling places, I hate customer service and I would never, ever be the person to randomly make a friend in a bar. That’s all Chris. He’s the social one, the go-getter of our coupling while I am just along for the ride hoping none of the strangers we end up bar hopping with are putting anything in my drink. But also, I’m enjoying myself.
Over the past few months, I’ve started trying to get out of my shell more. I think moving to a new town will do that to you. We’ve started on what I like to call our “big Army adventure,” and there are plenty of moves coming up that are going to require me to actually open my mouth and hope to God words that sort of make sense come out. Maybe I’ll just tell people I’m mute and carry around a notepad. I seem to make coherent sentences better via writing than anything else.
Anyways, I think my “oh crap I have to actually talk to strangers”epiphany happened a while ago, while I was still working at Camp Bow Wow. Even though we are lucky enough there to work with dogs who are generally much kinder than people, those dogs do come with owners. Someone had to pay the bill, right? Sure, you could hide out in the yards, but you can only scoop so much poop before you end up at the front of the house with a customer who has a million and one questions. I had to answer phones and make cute small talk with people to make them feel comfortable. While petrified at first, I soon came to enjoy it.
Since then, I’ve been finding myself making small talk with random women I meet who are also waiting for their cars to get serviced in Firestone (one even gave me a coupon! Smalltalk: 1, Social anxiety: 0). I’ve chatted with baristas, drive through attendants and most recently another mom at the playground.
Seriously, if anything will force you to communicate with other strangers, it’s having a child. Everyone wants to comment how cute your baby is and ask you a million and one questions about their behavior –including why your 10 month old won’t say “hi,” to them. Because she can’t talk, that’s why. No reason to get your panties in a bunch.
Anyhow, this mom at the park. Sophie and I had been there playing with the playground to ourselves for a while when she comes up with her son who had to be about four and her four-month-old baby girl. Her son ran up first and started talking to Sophie and being an adorable four-year-old and all of that cuteness. By the time she managed to get the baby in the stroller and rolled up, her son, Sophie and I were already involved in an odd game of hide and seek that was more like him not knowing how on earth to play with a child her age.
So obviously, she just immediately strikes up conversation with me. (I don’t know why that’s obvious, when I first saw them pull up my first thought was, well shit. I guess it’s their turn to play. Even though it’s an entire freaking playground. See, part of me hates socializing.) Anyways, she just starts talking to me about how her son loves to climb and is Sophie walking yet and nap schedules and her life with two kids and all of these things. Normally, I would get super offended by people prying so much into how I raise my kid because a high and mighty attitude tends to come with it, but there was none of that here. She viewed me as an equal, another mother playing with her child at the park on an unseasonably warm December day. As a young mom, I often feel like I’m not taken seriously or that I don’t know what I’m doing or I’m lesser or something.
Not with this lady. She just wanted to know how things were going. She opened up about how she took her son off his allergy meds too soon and she feels really dumb. We had an open and honest conversation, and I never even got her name. I found myself thinking, “wow, conversations like this don’t happen any more, this is nice.” Then later I realized, maybe conversations like this don’t happen anymore because we don’t let them happen. Because when someone else pulls up, we feel this desire to leave. Because we live in our own little bubbles and think that strangers should remain just that, strangers. We don’t take the opportunities we are presented with to talk to other people who could potentially be similar to us.
As I was walking back to my car, I considered going back and asking for her number, but I had no idea how to do that without being completely creepy. Instead, I’ll just be grateful for a nice memory talking to a stranger.