Stranger Danger…or New Friend?
If you are over the age of 40, you are probably pretty familiar with the whole “Don’t talk to strangers” and “Stranger Danger” mantra of the 70’s and 80’s. One of the worst nightmares of any parent is the idea of their child being abducted to later be abused and eventually murdered by some “stranger”. But how many of us carried that (very rational) fear of “strangers” into our adult years? How many of us as adults don’t quite understand that not every “stranger” is a “danger”? How many of us as adults understand that, very few “strangers” are in fact, a “danger”?
Noah Webster, Jr’s 1828 dictionary was the definitive resource for early American, Christian language. That edition was considered to be of the most relevance, particularly in order to understand the King James Bible. According to that dictionary, a “Stranger” was a:
1. A foreigner; one who belongs to another country. Paris and London are visited by strangers from all the countries of Europe.
2. One of another town, city, state or province in the same country. The Commencements in American colleges are frequented by multitudes of strangers from the neighboring towns and states.
3. One unknown. The gentleman is a stranger to me.
4. One unacquainted.
My child is yet a stranger to the world.
I was no stranger to the original.
5. A guest; a visitor.
6. One not admitted to any communication or fellowship.
Melons on beds of ice are taught to bear, and strangers to the sun yet ripen here.
7. In law, one not privy or party to an act.
So if the dictionary defined a “stranger” as simply being someone unknown to you, how did the idea of someone being a “stranger” automatically become such a negative? After all, the only person that any of us “knew” at first was our biological mother…and that is only because she carried us inside her womb. Everyone else that you “know” in your life, was once a “stranger”.
In his poem, “The Unknown Friends”, Edgar A. Guest once wrote:
“We cannot count our friends, nor say
How many praise us day by day.
Each one of us has friends that he
Has yet to meet and really know,
Who guard him, wheresoe’er they be, From harm and slander’s cruel blow.
They help to light our path with cheer,
Although they pass as strangers here.”
Irish Poet, William Butler Yeats said, “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”
Well, if a new friend is only a handshake away, then Robbie Stokes, Jr. decided to go out and make as many new friends as he could…by talking to “strangers”. Check out this fascinating Youtube video of his social movement called, I TALK TO STRANGERS® (ITTS) where Mr. Stokes strikes out to “bring the world together through conversation”. According to his own commentary, in 2012 Stokes had an idea to start conversations with people he did not know, so he quit his job on Capitol Hill to travel the globe and document what would happen if he simply talked to strangers.
“I wanted to have some impact to change the world but lately I’ve been hearing that the true impact is connecting the world, ” says Stokes. “I sold everything. All of my possessions fit into two suitcases. Legitimately four pairs of jeans, five shirts, four pairs of socks, a pair of tennis shoes, and a dream.”
We here at Unhyphenated America applaud Mr. Stokes for his courage to begin conversations with “strangers”, and we feel that if more Americans would simply talk with other Americans, that would go a long way towards bringing about our dream of an Unhyphenated America.