For anyone who’s interested in listening, I’d like to make a public service announcement. The people that surround you on a daily basis are only strangers if you choose to leave them so. Real connections can be made without a network or event. These strangers could be your future soulmate, good friend, or even business partner. After all, we’re all just people in the end.
I’ve made quite a few new friends as of late. It may be the freedom of recent graduation and looming unemployment that allow me the chance to spend my time in good company. However, my most recent friends have come from unusual circumstances.
I made a friend at a bus stop. I had just finished an interview and the rain was pouring down. This stop had no cover but I couldn’t complain. There was the undeniable high of a successful interview. There was possibility. In this possibility, a new stranger walked into the picture.
This story starts with a friendly conversation between him and I. For some reason, I chose to turn off the iPod for a moment and talk to the person next to me. As it turns out, that was the best decision I could have made because I found a new friend. We sat across from each other on the bus and continued conversing throughout the long, traffic ridden commute. It was the most organic connection I’d ever made. We weren’t introduced by mutual friends. We hadn’t met at an office party or an event. There was absolutely no reason we needed to connect but it happened. Now we’ve shared dinner and beers, grocery shopped and even attended a pool party.
Why choose to stay in contact with someone from a bus stop? Take a moment to ask why not. As a society, we’ve established this disconnect between each other. We get lost in a crowd and close ourselves off from one another. There are work friends, school friends, childhood friends, and neighbors. Who can we call just simply a friend? We don’t need an excuse to connect with people. It can happen on our own accord. Let go of this indescribable fear and speak to a stranger.
Let me tell you about Dave, the non-stranger from the bus stop. He is blind. Well, mostly blind. Since our first meeting, I have learned a bit more about his sight and the various lights and shadows that come through once in a while. I’m sure I’ll discover more as time passes. In truth, that is the least useful thing I could use to tell you about him. But it is fact; these are the things we notice. Blindness and other disabilities as recognized in our culture is a complicated and fascinating issue but I’ll save that rant for another day.
What interested me about Dave was that he wasn’t afraid to have a good conversation. Many people shy away from interactions they don’t have to have. Speaking to someone you don’t know requires more effort, more discovery. You don’t know what you’ll get. With Dave, I learned quickly that he was a kind hearted person who was simply getting by in life. He writes too but as of late has lacked inspiration. We bounced ideas off each other though and I’m confident he’ll be getting on the right track again. The number of friends he’s made at all his regular spots doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve already learned a thing or two from him and I expect I’ll learn more. He doesn’t need to hear this advice I’m giving because he’s the one who has taught me.
At first glance, our new friendship is a peculiar thing. When I tell my friends who I’m meeting on the weekend, I get into this story about this guy I met at a bus stop who’s really cool and we’re talking now… You can imagine I get the same confused stare from most of them. It doesn’t make sense because no one does that. Sure, maybe it happens with romantic interests. It’s true that people will do anything to get laid. But a new friend? Why bother? At first I had a difficult time explaining what the hell I was doing spending so much time with someone I met at a bus stop. I was worried people would think I was crazy. However, it didn’t take long to realize that I didn’t care. The more time I spend with my new friend, the more it all seems to make sense.
I have met a number of others through him. When I stop to think about it, I realize that I would have never known these people if I hadn’t given him a chance. There’s the very real possibility of seeing more of them and cultivating more friendships. This could very well change the course of my life. It’s that simple. Small connections shape our lives.
If anything, remember that none of us need to fit inside the established norm. Humanity and its cultures have evolved constantly since the beginning. Don’t be afraid to set a new norm and speak to the stranger at the bus stop. They aren’t merely strangers. They’re individuals with perspectives of their own and they could teach you a thing or two about life. Or they may just grumble to their friends later that there was an annoying stranger on the bus who wouldn’t leave them alone. You never know until you try.