Monday, May 23, 2016

The strangers we meet

A pause in his journey
Somewhere in Georgia
January 2015
The scene: We're on our way home from Florida, in the middle of the first day of a 2,400 km drive along I-75. We crossed into Georgia not too long ago, and have stopped at a nondescript strip mall to top off the car's tank, as well as our own. My wife and kids are inside the store while I hang out in the car for a few quiet moments with my camera.

Suddenly I realize I'm not alone, and I look up to see a man saying hello. To be honest, it freaks me out. This isn't Canada, where we tend to be somewhat more chill about pretty much everything and anything. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love that moment when we cross into our home and native land. Don't get me wrong: We love everything the U.S. is, and everything it stands for. But is it just a little scarier to us than Canada is? Sorry, folks, but yes, it is. So when a complete stranger walks up to me and starts chatting me up, my first thought is to be suspicious.

Before long, I realize he isn't a) going to mug me, or b) hit me up for a donation to his cause or even c) ask me for anything. He just wants to tell me he's on a journey of redemption, and sharing his story with others is part of his recovery. Not long ago, he tells me, his life was ruled by drugs and sin. But he managed to rid himself of his demons - his words - one step at a time. As my blood pressure eases a bit, we chat for a few minutes before he agrees to let me take his picture, then continues on his endless walk in search of more strangers to connect with.

Aside from wishing him safe travels, I also find myself wishing we didn't have to live in a world where our first inclination to a friendly overture was something more akin to fear. Maybe the world needs more like him to begin to change the narrative.

Your turn: Do you talk to strangers?


Kalei's Best Friend said...

You are not alone in feeling that way... then again, I have talked to strangers.. Standing in line @Starbucks u can't help but overhear convos while waiting... I heard someone asking someone else in line for directions and they weren't sure, so I piped up and told them the correct direction... The look on the face of that gal was priceless.. I think she was surprised that someone would be helpful...
Have u been to Oregon? well be prepared, those folks are on a different clock ... they are more chill.. also don;'t try and pump your own gas, they literally will come out to the pump and start it for you, as well as strike up a convo.

Tabor said...

Living near a city where every stranger is usually a con, I can understand.

Tony McGurk said...

Sadly, wariness of strangers is the norm here in Australia too now.