It was Friday 9th Feb and I was having a shit day. I was quite simply fed up (and a tad hungover), I assume you know the feeling.
I took it upon myself to walk into town, to sit in the window of a coffee shop, purely to watch the world go by. My laptop was sat on the table begging me to give it some attention. I couldn’t bring myself to do any work, so I opened up this blog I haven’t updated since my return from Australia.
In all honesty, I was uninspired. My main focus has now turned towards finishing my degree and gaining invaluable work experience, in preparation for beginning a new chapter. And as always, there’s been no juicy love life to write about. I’m still single, so there is nothing new in that department.
At that moment in time, a man in about his late 50s caught my eye. No, he wasn’t a DILF, in fact, he was far from it. But, there was something about the way he carried himself that was just so very compelling.
Fast-forward and this same man called Gary enters the coffee shop before politely asking if he could sit opposite me whilst he waited for his wife.
Gary was a people watcher too. And a talker. A big talker. He was also having a rather shit day.
Still fed up and slightly hungover, I thought to myself, “wow I don’t need to listen to someone else’s woes today, I have enough of my own”. I surprised myself and decided to listen. And I am glad I did.
I learnt so much about Gary that day.
He had just lost his job. But what struck me was his drive and attitude towards life. We soon entered a completely heartfelt conversation. I found it rather perplexing to believe that a 50-year-old man could open up to a 20-year-old stranger with such ease. And vice versa. I was overwhelmingly grateful that he felt comfortable enough to share such touching and personal stories with me, to a point where I was on the verge of tears. Perhaps this was because I was a stranger. Without sounding too weird, this moment was sort of special, something that doesn’t happen every day, although it undoubtedly should.
Gary was a happy person. It didn’t seem to bother him that he was jobless, but his positivity and energy provoked a strong sense of guilt for feeling ever so sorry for myself that day. Gary wanted to assist in finding me inspiration for a new post, but in fact, it was he who inspired me.
People intrigue me, and it’s fascinating how everyone has a unique story you are only a conversation away from knowing. Sometimes all people need is a listener or someone to chat with who isn’t familiar. Both Gary and I needed that on Friday.
The truth is, we live in an antisocial generation. We are now so caught up with ourselves and our daily routines that we don’t stop to talk and communicate with others, with strangers. Every person has a story, but nobody asks. No one is striking up conversations with others. Instead, we are so engrossed in some kind of electronic device, ‘obsessed’ with our own virtual worlds.
Not only this, but we have been taught not to speak to strangers. My parents have always instructed that I stay safe, and I’m thankful for that. But now we have matured to be sceptical of everyone we meet, with pre-conceived ideas of them. We shouldn’t always have to assume the worst of people, even though deep down I know we are doing it to protect ourselves. Gary could just be a genuinely pleasant and friendly man, but society has led me to believe that because he is a stranger speaking to me, he has other intentions.
How can we ever take risks and meet and learn about strangers if we are so caught up with our safety?
Our generation has grown up believing that it’s ‘weird’ and ‘potentially dangerous’ if a stranger were to approach you for a chat, unless at a bar when under the influence of alcohol. If I didn’t speak to Gary that day, I wouldn’t have learnt what I did from our brief exchange. But lending my time to him opened my eyes. He made me understand the sheer importance of conversation and how we can learn from other people, from strangers.
Everyone has a story, everyone has problems in their lives and I am grateful that the problems in my life at this moment are so very minuscule compared to other people.
If anything, I’ve learnt to be that person who speaks to strangers, despite what others may think, albeit with a degree of caution. Imagine missing the opportunity to meet someone who could potentially impact the rest of your life, because you were too preoccupied with an electronic device.
So, speak, talk, make connections.
I think it’s time things changed.