Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ain't it sad...

I was at the shops today, patiently standing in line to pay for my groceries, when an ordinary-looking, complete stranger joined the line behind me.
She was carrying a single item - a pack of Canderel sweetener.
"Hello", she said to me as I stood there...

Now the title of this post is referring to the state of mind that a lot of us live in for most our time, without even realising it.
I like to consider myself an optimist, and I try to stay upbeat about the future, about people around me and about things in general.
Of course I don't always succeed - sometimes the world gets us down and that's ok too - it's just part of being human.

With that in mind, this little part of my day made me think about the way we (sometimes almost instinctively) guard ourselves against unwanted or unexpected human interaction.
It's a problem that I sometimes have, and I would guess that I am not alone.
A lot of the time when a stranger approaches us in public or says "Hello" to us unexpectedly, our instincts pretty much decide that the stranger in question is out to get us somehow... and the mouth in our mind may sound something like this:

- What are they trying to sell me?
- Maybe it's a scam (followed by wild glances in every direction to spot possible accomplices)
- They want my money (either by force, or by gentle persuasion i.e. begging)
- They might really need my help (car breakdown, just been robbed, lost tourist, need directions etc.). Even then, we don't really want to get involved because it will put us out in some way...

I don't think that our political climate or crime record have done very much to help this mindset - through our own personal experiences, woeful stories shared with friends and colleagues, and the media of course, we find ourselves heading out into our daily lives, just a tad suspicious of the world in general.

So what then, if that stranger who acknowledges you, wants nothing more than to receive an acknowledgement in return? Is that actually possible?

In my case, it was in fact possible.
I almost had to do a double take, but thankfully I had my wits about me, so I returned the greeting with a friendly (but slightly cautious) "Hi".
The stranger then simply went on to pay for her Canderel, and left the store without any further ado.
I was unharmed, I still had all my cash, and I did not just get suckered into attending an Amway presentation... ;)

I'm not saying that we should all drop our guard all the time - that would just be silly (the term "Stranger Danger" comes to mind ;)
I just know that I felt ever so slightly silly myself, after jumping to dodgy conclusions about a complete stranger who simply said "Hello" to me...

p.s. for a good read along these lines, follow the link below - "On talking to strangers"...

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