One Thing You Can Do Now: #6 Say Hello To A Stranger

by Anne Bennett on September 3, 2009

This suggestion may sound odd for a healthy living blog, but bear with me while I explain. I talk to everyone, and I mean everyone. Fellow coffee drinkers standing in line at Starbucks (not to mention the baristas making our coffee); diners sitting next to me at a restaurant; grocery checkers and salespeople at Nordstroms and Target.

A smile from a stranger--priceless!

A smile from a stranger--priceless!

Most of the time the reaction I get is either uncomfortable silence or a look that tells me they think I’m harebrained.  I can see why they might feel this way. We are conditioned not to talk to strangers, especially people with whom we might have little in common or will never see again. It can also be a risky venture. After all, strangers can be, well, strange. Or worse.

Although I get rejected more often than not, every once in awhile I get a brief response, and that can be enough to jar both of us out of our belief that the world is a scary place where we can’t trust anyone we don’t know. It also feels damned nice to smile at someone and get a smile in return. It can make your day.

Corbett and Champ have been saying hello to strangers at every stop on their trip, and some of the photos they’ve taken illustrate my point. Look at the response they got at a lighthouse in Oregon.  

But here’s the big payoff: very rarely it blossoms into more than that. Several years ago when my daughter Elizabeth and I were in London, we were seated at a table in a restaurant adjacent to a British couple. We began a conversation that led to the exchange of email addresses. Emails turned into brief visits during our next visit to London. And this Sunday when I fly to San Francisco to meet up with my husband Champ, Brian and Christine will fly in from London, meet us at the San Francisco airport and we’ll rent a car and visit the wine country together, the best of friends who would have never met had it not been for a chance encounter at a restaurant.

It doesn’t matter that they live thousands of miles away. I believe that friendship has no boundaries. If you meet kindred souls, it is your duty to yourself and to the family of man to stay connected to them regardless of distance. And as far as I know, the only way to find those souls is to take the risk of talking to strangers. The odds of success are low, but it’s like a slot machine. You lose, you lose, you lose and then all of a sudden a torrent of coins spills out and your cup, so to speak, runneth over.

Some of my best friendships have begun this way. The risk has absolutely been worth it. As for the relevance to your health? When you feel connected to the world, you feel that being alive is worthwhile. When you feel good about being alive, you have a vested interest in taking care of yourself. And when you take care of yourself, you feel empowered, competent and worthy.

Not a bad payoff for a few scary moments of sticking your head out of your shell.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy September 3, 2009 at 6:09 am

This is so true and has happened to me many times in my life. I think alot of people are too attached to their electronic devices these days and the art of conversation is going away which is so sad. The band director at our high school always tells us at get togethers to say hello to five new people today and I think that he is right on!!!

Christine September 3, 2009 at 7:16 am

Kindred souls is definitely the correct way to describe our friendship, Anne. Our lives are richer for knowing you and your wonderful family and friends in Kansas City, and although distance doesn’t matter, there are times when to actually sit down together, more than likely with a glass of something nice, would be heaven. When I first moved to London 12 years ago from Nottingham I chatted to everyone, much to their consternation as, on the whole, Londoners aren’t the friendliest of breeds. Imagine my delight when you pitched up, great conversation and an enduring friendship to boot! So looking forward to our roadtrip and catching up on all the gossip. Love to you and all your readers, Christine

June Cassingham September 4, 2009 at 2:20 pm

I am not quite as out going as you, Anne, but some of my current “best friends” I met just this way. In fact a couple Nat and I met at the fitness center are coming over tonight for wine and cheese and conversation.

Courtney September 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

Thanks for reminding us of these things! You are truly a gift Anne and I hope our relationship continues even once I become my HOT lifetime member self. This message as well as what you spoke of today regarding “willingness to change” helped me immediately.

I came home and was ravenous! My kitchen is a mess and I was halfway out of the door to go grab a meal from my favorite restaurant to go. I was planning to order entirely too much food when I decided THIS was a great opporutnity to change my mindset. I calmed the heck down, grabbed an apple and a small piece of chicken breast so I could think about what I REALLY wanted. Now I can think straight and KNOW I want to make my turkey breast, stick to my points and enjoy a good book. Have a wonderful time with your friends!

P.S. Champ is a hottie (or I guess handsome would be more mature of me)! Does your whole family have fabulous hair? You all are a bunch of models!

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