Have you ever thought about the dozens of ways there are to greet someone? As a race and multitude of cultures, we have developed the wave, the handshake, the nod and even the fist bump just to name a few. However, I quickly learned that my greeting skills were sub par as I moved from the north to the south. There is a very different way of life between the two. Growing up, I did not talk to strangers-I barely even looked at strangers as it was considered rude.
However, I was having a discussion with a professor of mine a couple weeks ago and she was fascinated by how intimidated I felt during those first few weeks in the South. I had never felt like I was being watched more in my life. It wasn’t even like I was anything special. People just make eye contact on the street and greet you even though they could hardly guess as to what your name was!
This got me wondering why we don’t go out and meet other people in our communities. Has our world really gone so sour that we have this belief that every stranger is dangerous? Now I by no means believe it is safe to have a handful of strangers over for dinner, but what is wrong with sharing a table with someone new at coffee shop? Why would we rather be alone?
For someone with social anxiety, I have struggled with the act of meeting new people for as long as I can remember. Luckily, being from a small town, you just sort of knew everyone and you don’t remember how you met. It was just expected that we were friends because we were both stuck with the 3300 people in our town.
When I moved to a college campus though with 75,000 students who had their own lives-especially going to a campus where I knew absolutely no one- I was a complete wreck. My freshman year, I probably had maybe two good friends I talked to on a weekly basis. I hardly left my room except for class and I spoke to no one when I was in class. It was one of the worst years of my life and I was one copy of paperwork away from dropping out.
However, on the first day of sophomore year, I was sitting at a table outside by myself when this big-headed confident boy who obviously knew he was beautiful (you know the type I’m talking about) comes over and sits down. Then, with that thick southern accent of his, he says to me “you know, people don’t talk to strangers enough anymore.” He has been my best friend ever since. From that day, he forced my out of my shell and I have not been happier or known as many people as I do now.
So my challenge is this: meet a stranger. Even a shy hello is better than no hello.
Keep to your roots,