Stranger Danger

These days parents would rather their children pay attention to iPads and TVs than playing outside, riding their bikes, or drawing chalk on the road. Parents and children alike fear the unknown; they fear the stranger. While I'm not saying every child should talk to just anyone, I think that by sheltering our children we are doing them a great disservice. By accurately reading and refraining from a bad judgment of other people, we can bask in the glory that humanity carries—the happiness that strangers can bring.

I'm not delusional. I know that sometimes people suck. They can ding your car door or cut you off on the highway, speak too loudly on the phone in a restaurant, or just be inconsiderate to those around them, but there are strangers who, if you let them, can make your day. You wouldn't think it, but a single smile from someone you don't know could change your attitude entirely.

At Christopher Newport, I constantly have conversations with the people I've never spoken to before. I've talked about many things with strangers merely by bumping into them, wearing a well-known shirt or smiling. This seems simple - because it is! Speaking to your peers is a good place to start for those of you who have never spoken to a stranger. Find someone on your campus you've never spoken to and just say something. Praise a student you saw in a play, mention an organization's event when you notice someone wearing that organization's shirt/someone you know is in that organization, or talk about a test with a classmate you might not talk to otherwise. You don't need a reason to be friendly.

I grew up with my mom talking to strangers. Talking about products in the grocery store, being nice to an artist at the state fair, joking with the wait staff. I witnessed her talk to these people and in elementary school, I questioned her about it. She responded that she was just being a decent human being. If you avoid talking to every stranger because of a stereotype, because you are afraid, you could lose the opportunity to make your day. I have a magnet on the back of my car that reads, "My dog is smarter than your honors student." Walking out of Michael's I watched a couple pointing and looking at my bumper. I asked if they liked my bumper sticker and they replied, "Yes." I asked if it was the dog one and they said, "Yes" again, so I responded that I liked that one too. The entire time I continued walking, so you don't have to go out of your way to do this. It's like sitting in a VW Beetle and watching people punch their friends. It's small, but can change the attitude of your day.

With the recent outbreak of clowns on college campuses nearby, I understand the hesitation of talking to strangers, making yourself vulnerable to someone unknown to us. Despite this, the power of a single smile is lost among today's generation. You don't know how bad of a day a person is having, but adding a smile to their interactions can cause a 180 degree turn in their outlook of the day. I'm not calling for you to avoid your instincts, but I do suggest not being so afraid of everything that is strange or unfamiliar. In an age where social media makes us less social, I urge my generation to become more connected with those around them, known or not known to them.