This I Believe

Brian - Chesapeake, Virginia
Entered on November 16, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Be a Kind to Strangers

I believe people should treat strangers as friends rather than avoid them. When I was a little kid, my parents told me and my brothers and sisters that strangers were bad and I was never supposed to talk to them. That’s pretty good advice for a little kid to keep them safe. But why is it that I notice people doing the exact same thing when they’re grown-up? When I’m at school walking to class, I see people stealing glances at me when I walk by and when I look back at them and smile they immediately look away as though I have three eyes and two noses. I’m not saying that everybody does this. There are those who will smile back, but generally everyone’s going out of their way not to take notice of strangers.

It’s probably because strangers are associated with being bad. I believed this when I was a little kid, but when I was older I realized that I’m a stranger to most people too and I’m not a bad person. People look at me like I’m some kind of outlaw, but I’m not a serial killer, I’m an eagle scout and a pretty nice guy. We’re all strangers and not all of us our bad. Should we continue living in fear of each other simply because we want to assume that the unknown is automatically a threat?

A few weeks ago I was on my way to class. There was a girl on her cell phone eagerly talking to a friend trying to figure out where a certain building was. I overheard her pleading with her friend to be more accurate, said excuse me, and pointed out the building she was trying to find. She thanked me and I asked her why she called her friend instead of asking one of the many people around her. She said she didn’t think any of them would help. I couldn’t believe it. All those people around her and she thought none of them would be willing to point out a building.

I think that if people stopped being afraid all the time and realized that not all strangers are bad people everyone would be a lot happier. Some may protest saying that some strangers are bad and will continue ignoring everyone in public. And that’s fine if they want to do that, but I’d rather not live in fear. So I’ll keep smiling at people as I walk by, hold doors and elevators, thank people who hold doors and elevators for me, and answer any stranger who has a question I know the answer to in the hopes that it’ll rub off on somebody else.