This I Believe

Katherine - Anchorage, Alaska
Entered on February 13, 2007

I have an addiction. It’s terribly strong, and though people have been warning me against it for years, I can’t seem to help myself. I have got to smile and say hello to anyone who will let me. I crave that feeling of camaraderie, that returned smile from a total stranger. I believe that being a friend, especially to people you don’t know, is very important.

I have always been an abnormally friendly child. My mother often had to restrain me from running down the aisles in grocery stores to to talk to fellow shoppers. When I was old enough to ride the public bus, my brother was often sent along to make sure that I didn’t get into any trouble. None of it worked. I still made fast friends with the grump in the corner who hated everyone; I still posed for a caricature on a moving bus; and I still bought a happy meal for that homeless man outside of Burger King.

I am constantly told that I don’t need to talk to everyone, and that I shouldn’t trust total strangers. The world is dangerous; the news is full of stories about abducted children and women whose cars are stolen because they asked theat nice man to fix their tire. I am an eighteen-year-old girl walking around town and riding the bus at all hours – I don’t need to compound the risk by engaging in conversation with the wild-looking men warning about the end of the world and exclaiming over the healing properties of homegrown herbs. However, in my life, I’ve found one thing to be more dangerous than any of that: apathy. I have known so many people who are afraid that nobody cares about them, who don’t even try to function in the world because they are sure that it won’t make any difference, or – even worse – who will do anything to be noticed. I know that wars will continue to be fought, that people are going to go hungry, and that pollution is not going away any time soon. The hardest news for me to stomach, though, is finding out that my friend is in the psychiatric ward because she thought people saw her as unimportant, or that someone close to me tried to slit his wrists to get attention.

I know that one person cannot stop all the bad things in the world from happening. However, I do know that the power of knowing that someone else cares about you and wants to know what you have to say is incredibly potent – this I believe.