Stranger Danger!! I shudder to think there are still parents teaching their children not to talk to strangers. Yes, we need to educate our youth and teach them about safe behaviours, but ignoring or avoiding people we don’t know is not the answer. Isn’t there a saying that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet? What would our world look like if we all took this message to heart?
Case in point my last three months. I have been talking to every stranger imaginable – on the bus, at coffee shops, signing up for retreats where I didn’t know anyone – I even attended a potluck on Tuesday with people I had never met before! And it has opened up a world, or rather a series of intersecting communities, that blows my mind. Never before have I felt so embraced by my peers, so connected to my city, as I do right now.
A recent Vancouver Foundation report indicates that Vancouverites are feeling socially isolated and alone. I’m sure there are many reasons for people feeling this way (condo culture, the internet, cultural segregation are often the culprits) but this fear mongering around strangers has got to stop. I know Vancouver gets a bad rap – I’ve lived in communities where it was a whole lot easier to make friends, find work and generally feel ‘part of something bigger’. But it does exist here…it just takes a little more effort to find.
Some things I have done to build my community include:
- Joining the HiVE – a collaborative, co-working office space
- Joining the Community Arts Council board and volunteering with them
- Using Twitter to find out what’s happening in my city (@Narrative_ink is me!)
- Attending Vancity’s free workshops for female entrepreneurs
- Smile! It is amazing how this can invite conversation.
My role as storyteller is to not only listen and help others express their story, it is also to walk the walk when it comes to sharing my own story. So I have set out to share my story with strangers! Sharing your story is hard – especially if you are going through something challenging (like running a business or moving to a new city). We were taught to put on a happy face and tell people everything is just fine. My experience has been that the more honest you can be, especially when it comes to the challenges or obstacles you are facing, the more people will reach out and offer a helping hand. Maybe it has something to do with being able to see ourselves in others, or perhaps it’s identifying the courage it takes to admit when you need advice or support. Whatever it is, the more honest we can be with ourselves, and with strangers, the better chance we have of feeling connected to a community.