A Chat with a Stranger
I was at Starbucks the other day, and there was an old man in line behind me. He leaned forward and said, “Nice day out.” I turned my head and said, “Ya, looks like it’s going to be.” He started talking to me about this and that, and I ended up standing there, talking to him until my chai latte was ready. When it was ready, I grabbed it, told the old man to have a nice day and he said “It was nice talking to you, dear. Take care.”
I left Starbucks feeling happier than usual. This old man and his pleasant small talk really put me in a good mood. I drove out of the parking lot and waved a car to go ahead, even though it was clearly my turn. When I was out running my errands, I held the door for people and smiled as they walked through. I had a little more patience with my kids. All because of the small talk I made with the old man at Starbucks. It got me thinking.
This man grew up in a time when you would walk down the street, make eye contact with the people you passed, and smile or say hello. You would greet your butcher by name and ask him what was fresh. You sat on your front porch in the hopes of seeing your neighbours so you could say hello and ask how little Johnny made out at his soccer game, or ask how your neighbours ailing mother was doing. He grew up in a time where it was common place to strike up a conversation while waiting in line at the bank. Everyone knew everyone’s business, not because they were nosey, but because they cared. People genuinely cared about other people.
Today we don’t make eye contact with the people we pass on the street because our heads are buried in our smartphones. We walk past them as if we didn’t even see them. We don’t greet our butcher by name because we don’t know his name. We rush from our car into the house, therefore we don’t know our neighbours. We do notice that they haven’t cut their grass or brought in their blue bins. And we are quick to point out our neighbours house-keeping flaws to our friends. We don’t strike up a conversation at the bank because we are doing our banking online or at the drive-thru window. We still know each other’s business, not because we care, but because it showed up on our twitter and Facebook feed. We’ve stopped talking to strangers on the street, and started fighting with strangers on the internet.
I think we’re all so busy trying to get to the next place, run the next errand, get to the next meeting, that we never realize or enjoy where we are. I, too, am guilty of this. I was in a rush that day at Starbucks and didn’t think I had time to make small talk with a stranger. But, it changed my whole day. Put me in a great mood that lasted. Imagine if we all had come in contact with that old man that day. If we all had taken a bit of time to talk to a stranger, open a door, wave someone on while driving. How different would that day have been? The small talk the old man and I made that day was mostly centered around the tragic shooting in Ottawa in October. Maybe we’d all be nicer to one another if we started talking to strangers.
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