Always talk to strangers


By Grace Work-Steenrod

When I was seven I started flying by myself to Georgia to visit my dad during summers and holidays. I had flight attendants assigned to me, but they never paid too much attention. I would always sit next to an older person in hopes they would talk to me. Always given the window seat, they never inquired if I was scared of heights or not. I was! Luckily for me, when people see a seven year old sitting alone, they WILL ask questions. First the usual, “why are you flying to Georgia ” and then eventually they would start talking about themselves. I always enjoyed the distraction and would listen intently.

By the age of 10 I had gotten used to the small conversations I had with these strangers. I found comfort in the conversations I had during flights and even met strangers who reminded me of people I knew. Once I was sitting next to an older woman who reminded me of my grandma, with her platinum hair and thin framed glasses. I saw her before boarding, she was sitting alone watching the planes pull into the terminal. I wondered why she seemed to be so troubled. During the flight she told me about her hobbies, her kids and her grandkids. This was the first time I can remember being the one to ask the questions during a flight. I found out that she was flying to a funeral. I think in that case we both enjoyed the distraction of small talk.

I’ll never know how that funeral went, how she probably silently cried in the viewing area, but I am struck by how often I still think of her. That woman was kind and gave me the small pleasure of sharing her life within that two hour flight. This is when I learned about the power of talking to strangers.

When I was little my mom would always caution me not to talk to strangers. In fact most of society accepts the precept that talking to strangers is dangerous. I disagree. Talking to strangers can be both interesting and safe in most situations. I am not advocating for people to seek out strangers alone or in desolate places, but rather to embrace encounters with strangers as they happen organically. I talk to strangers at the chipotle cash register, the Kroger self checkout, or at the YMCA. A friendly greeting and authentic curiosity goes a long way.

Conversation and a sliver of your time is a gift anyone can give and most will appreciate. Whether talking to strangers on airplanes or as you wait in line to order your coffee – informal, genuine conversations brighten most peoples’ day. Offering a compliment or asking a friendly question opens a door of communication that many people are trained to leave closed. I have found that little words of appreciation, simple greetings, and casual conversations with strangers are worth it! These conversations have taught me that most people have good intentions. They have taught me that people have more in common than they think. Talking to strangers has reminded me that people are more alike than unalike. Even people who look completely different from me. I am a 17-year-old girl who has the same taste in music as a 57-year-old man. I would have never known that if I was afraid to talk to strangers. At a time when most people prefer silence and assume that others are radically different from them, I think we could all benefit from a few friendly, casual conversations with strangers.

Grace Steenrod is a senior at Sidney High School. She is the daughter of Sarah Steenrod and Ryan Work. She plans to attend Edison Community College in the fall and eventually transfer to complete her four year degree. She plays golf, runs track, and is involved in Key Club, National Honor Society and the Big Buddies Program. This summer she is looking forward to hanging close to home with friends.

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