Letter to a Stranger

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Photo by Victoria Clark

By Victoria Clark

Dear Stranger,

I don’t know you. Yet, if I know myself enough, then I could guess a little bit about you. The way you walk tells me if you’re in a rush or if you’ve got time to wander into the camellia garden. Where you choose to sit in the library tells me if you want to be hidden from the world or if you’re alright with catching a gaze of someone walking by. If you have headphones in, I know I don’t have a chance of speaking with you. If you’re staring at your feet as you walk, I know your path is set. If your hands are tucked deep into your pockets, you tell me there’s no chance in getting a hello back from you today.

Our lives are busy, whether we purposefully try to keep ourselves occupied or not. We’re constantly moving, and always walking past the moments of our lives that we should be using as pauses. Everyone is so caught up trying to chase the moments in their lives that they think are important instead of letting the moments become memorable on their own. If you paused a moment and noticed all the life around you, then imagine all you could do in this world.

You could sail on a rain puddle if it rained enough outside. You could spread your arms and fly if the wind was strong enough to pick you up. You could live in a boot if they made them that big, or have a pet whale if your fishbowl could hold him.

Those are just a few ideas.

Or…

You could chance a conversation with someone passing by if you keep your head up as you walk. You could compliment a stranger about their appearance as you wait in line to buy the coffee that’ll get you through the morning (or a long night of studying). You could put your headphones in your pocket, as you make your way across the campus, or wave hello to the person sitting in their car at the red light next to you.

You see, every day you tell the world a story without using your words. Your mannerisms give you away. The way we handle ourselves in public, and the way we treat others, adds definition to who we are as individuals. I want to remind you that the person you keep inside yourself should come say hello.

A couple of weeks ago, I wandered into the library, mentally preparing myself to tackle my pile of homework, and as I walked in I ran into an older woman who was walking out. We bumped shoulders, caught eyes, and both frantically apologized for running into the other, but I had never seen this woman before. The two of us shook hands after our many “sorrys” cleared the air. A bright and bubbly “hello” escaped her lips, as if she had met me before, and she wished me a good afternoon. Then, the woman turned, and rejoined the group she had been walking with. It sounds like such a small moment, nothing to remember in the many things that happen in our days, yet I still remember this woman who greeted me with as much enthusiasm as she would have greeted a friend. This moment was memorable because instead of walking the paved path that could get me from Point A to Point B, with headphones in and head down, I was knocked off my path and forced to make eye contact with another human.

I know it’s shocking, but other people exist.

I’m trying to tell you not to be afraid of other people. Sometimes a simple “hello,” an interest in someone’s well being, or an inquiry about someone’s day may be enough of a knock to remind them to break down their wall and become an engaging human again. A part of being human is being okay with letting go of yourself bit by bit, trusting the world inch by inch, and being vulnerable enough to greet each new day with enough humility to make a difference in someone else’s day.

You don’t know me, but you may know yourself well enough to guess a little bit about me.

Sincerely,

Someone to Say “Hello” to

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