Last night, I went to Staples to get school supplies with my mom. We took almost two hours. In high school (middle school too I think), they don’t give you a list before the school year starts, so you have to go after school starts – and they expect you to have it all by the next day. So you have to go that night, and you can’t go without buying stuff or else you’ll be unprepared. So I went last night… just like everyone else. The line, I kid you not, went to the back of the store. And not just to the back – it wound around different mini-aisles and curved around to the side. It was long. I had to get supplies for my brother and myself, so I had his sheets of paper – running around everywhere – and I had my one organized list. I’m that kind of person 🙂 About halfway through our shopping, my mom and I figured it would be a good idea to begin waiting in line. So my mom stepped in, and it’s a good thing she did, for two reasons. First, and most obvious, once I had finished scavenging for supplies, we had moved up a teensy bit in the line. Second, we were standing next to strangers.
If we had known them, we would’ve been jabbering on like the two Chinese women way out in front of us. (I speak Chinese and knew what they were talking about.) But we didn’t. For the first 15 minutes of our wait, we were pretty quiet. We were standing next to an Indian mom who didn’t mind her kid running off to play in the swivel chairs and a high school boy who’d come by himself. Then the guy dropped his binders… we were getting tired. We helped pick them up for him, and he did it twice more during our one-hour wait, and by the third time it was getting funny and we laughed. We talked a bit, and by the end, we were cheering together. “Oh look, we can see the end!” “We made it!” Sounds cheesy, but it was, in a slightly twisted way, fun.
Okay, I take my first statement back. There are some dangerous strangers. But why are parents always telling their kids: “Watch out – stranger danger!” or “Don’t talk to strangers!” I guess the latter is good for the very young, but I think more and more often, we are discouraging the small talk that makes my day. I remember once I was at a carnival/fair event. There was once of those rides where you get in swings and it spins around. I was maybe 10 years old. There was some girls my age near to me who were all friends, and a girl about six with them. As we were waiting for the ride to begin, I said hi to the younger girl, but the older one warned, “Don’t talk to strangers!” Honey, I’m 10. There are so many opportunities that we have to make friends, but if we’re so afraid of them, we’ll never be able to have a good laugh. Life is so much more enjoyable when you’re open for some small talk. Of course you should be cautious of the things you get into, but you should never judge strangers as dangerous! Judge them instead as a decent person, and once you get to know them, you can make your final judgment.
(I wrote this about 3 days after school started – around three weeks ago, and I found this laying around as a draft for some odd reason. So no, school has not just started for me!)
“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met.” -William Butler Yeats