Today, I had a very interesting conversation with a stranger. It’s something I do as often as someone will entertain my invitation to talk. While waiting for a carry-out order in a chain restaurant, I sat next to a middle-aged white lady who was also waiting. The sights and sounds from the television at the bar easily spilled over into the pick-up area and offered the perfect opportunity and excuse to strike up a conversation, which I did and she obliged.
The topics weren’t serious—the holidays, the weather and family, and we transitioned easily from one to the other. She was pleasant and for a moment, I felt like I had known her for longer than the 5 minutes we had been sitting together. The conversation was easy and comfortable.
I enjoy talking to strangers. Doing so is disarming to those who may have already arrived at a preconceived opinion about me—who I am; my personality, what I think and do on a daily basis. Sometimes I start with “hello” or a compliment to put them at ease. Other times, I may even inject myself into a conversation already in progress, apologizing first for interrupting, of course.
In doing so, I have learned that most people want to connect with others; they almost seem starved for a personal connection that has been replaced by technology and relying upon the endless and usually subjective opinions of others. You know–cloaked prejudices and perceptions. But, what I have learned is that nothing beats a (mis)perception or impression of a person (or people) or like talking to them. And, as cliché as is may be, we really do have more in common than not.
At a time when our country teeters between a post-racial society and Civil Rights regression, nothing does more to break the fragile but age-old barriers like a simple hello. More often than not, people respond favorably and a positive impression and connection are made.
One hello, one person, one conversation and connection at a time; no new laws, policies or means of enforcement are required; Just a smile and two willing participants. Making a difference is really that simple.
Some of the best conversations and moments of my day are with or because of my encounters with strangers. Go ahead; try it sometimes.