Do you want to know what my favorite saying is? “Today I learned…” (with “This week I learned…” as a fair back up). To me, there really is nothing more thrilling than learning something new, being exposed to information or ideas I did not know about, and meeting people who share a different point of view with me.
In my pursuit of stuff to learn, I have sort of chucked away conventional common sense and glommed onto the words of William Butler Yeats: “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” That’s right. Despite all the training given to me in childhood, I talk to strangers. In grocery lines, in restaurants, at stop signs, the ladies’ room–pretty much anywhere conversation is possible. Strangers are infinite sources of knowledge–you can sometimes learn more from a stranger than you ever could from a friend. Strangers challenge your status quo and push you to move beyond your comfort zone.
One of the best friends I ever had, Renee, was met like this. I saw her in the hallway at college and she happened to be carrying a binder with an 8×10 photo of George Takei as Sulu on the back. Now, this was long before it was “great to be Takei,” when he was just an actor in a failed sci-fi show. But I saw that picture and my dealie-boppers twitched. I pointed and yelled, “Sulu!” at her. (Yes, I was in college….) A friendship was born out of two strangers bonding over a photograph. And while we shared a lot of interests, Renee was very different from me and challenged me to move beyond my own limitations.
So many of the wonderful, crazy, inspired experiences I’ve had in my life have stemmed from the fact that I don’t let not knowing someone get in the way of an intellectual or spiritual connection.
In this light, I want to point you toward a web-site called “I Talk To Strangers.” Robbie Stokes was working at the United States House of Representatives when he made a decision that would astound most people. Determined to not just change the world, but connect it, Stokes sold everything he owned and began a journey. He challenged himself to meet and talk to as many people as he could, and encourage them to do the same.
Imagine that for a moment. Dedicating your life to meeting people, and inspiring every person you meet to do the same. Can you fathom the ripple effect of such an act? Stokes could, and he’s bringing others into the wave. His site offers opportunities for volunteering and employment, as well as blogs and videos.
All because one guy wanted to meet people!
What could you do, if you were brave enough (and crazy enough, perhaps) to follow your passion? Where would you go, and who would you become?
What an amazing world we live in, and what amazing people for us to meet! I am going to volunteer, and I’m going to keep talking to strangers.
Sleep well, and dream of fascinating conversations, my friends.