A few weeks ago, my friend and I spent Friday night at the local bar, with one premise in mind: we wanted simply to meet and converse with our fellow humans. (Since I’m in my 20s and no longer in school, opportunities for meeting new people are a bit limited.)
I discovered that one guy, let’s call him John, works a corporate job but paints on the side, and I found out that his brother teaches English and loves the performing arts scene. They came out to celebrate and toast their friend, who just became a real, live lawyer.
I was impressed by the approachable crowd. On the other side of the bar, we met another pair of guys. Random details of our lives were shared, musical interests were compared and anecdotes were recited. (I tend to tell embarrassing stories that may incite laughter and hope for the best.)
And though contact information wasn’t exchanged by night’s end, I still walked away, almost marveling, at something that isn’t exactly a revelation: We meet people who we may never cross paths with again, but we connect with them in that moment.
Ellen Scheidt’s January 2014 post speaks of how we can gain insight into the human experience through these kinds of interactions.
“I believe that you can learn something from anyone that you allow into your life,” she said. “I learned about what it was like to grow up in Mexico from a person I met at Jimmy John’s. I learned about a man’s struggles with schizophrenia on a bus in downtown Pittsburgh. I learned about a children’s charity in Nashville from a traveling advocacy group at a bar called Two Fiddles.”
People come in and out of our lives in constant flux, and there are those who won’t remain in our inner circle. However, Scheidt still proposes that we can be vulnerable in conversations and enjoy that specific point in time, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Samuel Leighton-Dore’s February 2014 article beautifully illustrates the notion that there might not be such a sharp contrast between you and the strangers you haven’t met yet, after all.
“On days like these when I’m lost and without a lifeline, it helps shift my perspective,” he wrote. “It changes the way I see those around me. It makes me notice people in the crowd, really see them — realize their beauty, understand their importance; the way they’re all so full of love and so thirsty for love in return. It makes me realize that the crowd doesn’t have to be an ocean in which to drown — but a sea in which to swim.”
When we connect with strangers in the present moment, it’s easy to get swept away with thoughts such as “Will he or she ask to see me again?” or “I wonder if we’ll keep in touch after this meeting.” Sometimes, we may pontificate about letting go before an attachment even manifests. However, connections with strangers are valuable since it’s these encounters that enrich our own experiences in some way, shape or form.