Stranger, No Danger

I am one of those people who tends to speak, or smile, at strangers. I don’t do it out of obligation, but out of a sense of community or neighborliness. I have lived in my current neighborhood for a little over ten years and have established quite a few casual relationships with its members — those who were here when I arrived, and those who have since moved in.

On my daily walk to work, I see a lot of the same people with a few new folks sprinkled in, and I always speak or give a welcoming gesture. My mother would tell you it’s because I was raised right, and though that plays a part in it, there was a quote I once read that went something like: “You might be the only contact with god that someone has today.” For some reason, I took that to heart. Why should a stranger’s encounter with me leave a lousy taste in their mouth? No matter what I may be going through, it is necessary for me to not weigh someone else down with it or bring any type of energy that isn’t loving or affirming. And if I am in a funky mood, extending myself, even in small ways, tends to raise my spirits.

Not every hello or smile is met with a response, but that’s cool. Some folks even give me the side-eye and I can imagine them thinking that I must be crazy or that I’m looking to scam them. I get that. I used to think similarly, but that was when I was in a much different place in my life — more on that at a later time. However, more often than not, my smile or greeting is returned, and sometimes I wind up having really sweet, though brief, conversations that leave me a bit more energetic than when I started out. +1 for me!

I’m not advocating that folks go out and start speaking to every person they see — everything isn’t for everyone. But I have found that as a Black woman, particularly when I speak to another Black woman, there is an immediate energy shift. Too many of us are dealing with a multitude of complex issues, and then there is that whole street harassment thing that causes a lot of us to have to mean mug, put in our earbuds, and steely proceed to our destinations. So when when we come at each other with smiles, warmth, and openness, some of the walls that we have had to build up, crumble just a little.

We’re all carrying different loads, but in the midst of hauling our own stuff around, we can make someone else’s load a little bit lighter. In our daily lives, there’s something that we each can do as individuals that can possible change the trajectory of someone’s day, week, or even life.

Simple, right? So what are you going to do?