In the last year or so, I have been made aware that something I thought was completely normal is actually not normal at all.
I talk to strangers everywhere I go.
Let’s take the last few days, for example. Off the top of my head, I can think of quite a few people I’ve met. There was James, who was walking a cute Labradoodle named Sterling just 20 minutes ago outside my house. There was Eric, the man in Starbucks who I wound up talking to for almost an hour. There was Victoria, the girl waiting in line with her precious baby Ivy at that same Starbucks. There were countless strangers in between.
The thing is, I strike up these conversations instinctually. I don’t actively decide that I want to talk to strangers around me, I just talk. And you know what? 99 times out of 100, the person is pleasantly surprised and happy to talk to me. (That 1 person is usually grumpy or rude but you know what? I like to think maybe I could have brightened their mood just a little bit.)
It makes me sad when friends in New York tell me that you don’t speak–or even make eye contact–with people around you. Ever. It makes me question whether I could ever be happy living in a place like that (and I’ve always wanted to live in a big city).
I think that a lot of the beauty in life is in meeting people and not just making small talk but actually getting to know them. That guy James? His family owns 3 Labradoodles and he’s graduating from law school this year. Eric from Starbucks? He’s a dermatologist who’s lived all over the US including California and Massachusetts, and served in the Navy for 9 years. He loves Pandora and listens to it just about every day at work. Victoria told her now-husband just two weeks into dating him that if they ever had a daughter, they could name her Ivy. Four months ago, she was born.
As you can see, I’m not one to just talk about the weather. I want to know people. I want as many people as possible to know that they are important, interesting, and worthwhile.
This video is one of my favorites because it puts into words what matters so much to me. Sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. This understanding is part of what fuels the way that I interact with people and see the world. Perhaps I won’t ever see a person again– I’m just meant to be a random conversation in a grocery store line on a Tuesday afternoon. I’m an uncredited extra in the movie of their life. I personally need this dose of humility–to be reminded that the world isn’t revolving around me all the time (or even any of the time). Take a look for yourself and see if it gives you the same perspective it gave me.