Trusting Strangers

Tory - Kentfield, California
Entered on February 23, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

The first time I picked up a hitchhiker, I was eight years old. Well, I guess I should say my dad was 44 when he first picked up a hitchhiker. I was in the front seat. Gliding along wet pavement, our car approached a man standing on the side of the road. A thumb, waving like a flag of surrender, tilted towards the road as its owner stumbled backwards dripping in the rain. “How cool!” I thought, as my dad slowly pulled the car towards the side of the road. The man, around 25 years old, pulled his tired, waterlogged legs into the backseat of the car and thanked us both at least twenty times. My dad asked him the typical questions: where he was from, what his name was, and where he wanted to be dropped off. The hitchhiker answered politely.

The next Monday, I raced into my classroom eager to tell my classmates of my adventure: “we dropped him off at a gas station and he said ‘thanks’ and we drove away” I said. Looking around at my friends I saw stunned eyes, dropped jaws, and furrowed brows.

“Your dad picked up a stranger!”

“Some random guy sat in your car!”

“You could have been murdered!”

When we pulled over, I was not scared for my life; instead I was happy to help someone. That day, staring into the indignant faces of my peers, I learned something about myself: I believe in trusting strangers. Recalling that adventure, I realize that picking up a total stranger may not be one hundred percent safe. However, I believe that in order to connect with the other 6.6 billion people in the world, I must be willing to trust. And yes, it is risky and scary to put faith into unfamiliar hands, but not having the faith in myself to do so is much more dangerous. A stranger will be my pilot, my paramedic, my public bus driver and other people who I count on the most. Sometimes I have to let go and believe that people will be kind, teach me important lessons, and not put me in danger. To me, the risk, the hazardous unknown, is worth universal trust and reliance.

Everyday, I hear about terrorists attacking commercial planes, innocent people being shot at bank hold-ups, and drunk driving accidents that take lives. I’m no fool. I know that there are people in the world who don’t have my best interest at heart, people who are extremely dangerous and do terrible things. However, I also know that in order to meet new people and try new things I must trust the people around me. From the moment I wake up until I fall asleep, I try to make safe ad informed decisions, but I also know that regardless of my choices, my fate is somewhat up to these strangers who weave in and out of my life. I believe that having faith in people isn’t actually all that strange.