The Strange Thing about Strangers

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Before we get to know anyone at all, we started as strangers. It would be pretty confusing but I challenge you to imagine this: pick any part of your day today where you were with anyone else besides yourself, and stand in the shoes of any other person you didn’t know around you, with these newly worn lenses, take a look at yourself- a stranger. 

And now come back to being yourself and let me ask you a question: do you think you’re harmful or completely harmless? 

Chances are, you’d answer ‘harmless’, and I believe you. Actually every stranger around us is born with an innate kindness, some more open about it than others, but we may be cautious by nature because of the competitive society we are in or we may have a stern look as default face to make sure we don’t look vulnerable to the ‘evil’ we must always be alert about, we may avoid eye contact for fear of offending people and may look at our smartphones, as distracted as possible, to ‘stay out of trouble’. But from our own shoes when we see these they come across as unfeeling, robots, uninterested and even, unkind. 

Today was Giving Tuesday (http://community.givingtuesday.org), and amongst the many acts of giving, there was this little movement Treats On Giving Tuesday, where kindness advocates stood by the premise that ‘there’s always time to make someone’s day and every little act of kindness counts’. Here’s my story: 

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This morning as I sat on the bus on my way to a meeting at Far East, I mustered up the courage to say hi to this beautiful and completely harmless lady sitting beside me. Before I plucked up the courage to do so and give away my first treat, there were a thousand questions that crossed my mind, as if this imaginary ‘evil’ was doubting the integrity of my actions and making me take it back. Yet it was only after giving the oreos to her and introducing myself that she opened up with a bright smile on her face and engaged in a very personal conversation with me about her story. 

I have learned the stories of her career in Singapore and of her life in Taiwan where she came from, within that bus ride. 

As I alighted from the bus and turned to wave goodbye, she had the brightest smile on her face that I could never imagine her having if I hadn’t given her those oreos. 

The Strange Thing about Strangers: before we say hi with a smile, they always look so distant- so much so we forget that they’re just as harmless as us, and we are so much more alike than we think

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And the story about this bunch is the one with the longer story to tell- I met one of them at City Hall station slumped over sitting on this backpacks looking extremely exhausted before I convinced myself it was imperative I offered him oreos in my hands. So as I went along and tapped him to say Hi, that one greeting that already turned that frown upside down! There was clearly an immense amount of joy already brought to him from a stranger’s greeting. As I explained what I was doing, he stood up and listened intently before replying with ‘That’s a really good idea! So can I only give people oreos? How about a hug?’ and giving me the warmest bear hug in the day. 

He then introduced me to his two other backpacker friends, all from Germany on their travels that they earned their own money to fund. They even have a beautiful blog recording it here: http://boytravel.blogspot.sg/ So I shared a good 1 hour travelling and waiting at the bus stop before finally parting, helping them plan their travel itenary for tomorrow. 

And this is going to be a memory that will stay with me for a long, long time. 

The Strange Thing about Strangers: There’s no stranger who doesn’t deserve kindness and you always have the power to make their day. 

Thanks #GivingTuesdaySG for the lessons learned!

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3 thoughts on “The Strange Thing about Strangers

  1. i love it sherm!!!! i think what you’re/you’ve been doing is really great to make singapore a nicer, kinder, more friendly place and im quite inspired rn :’) so incredibly proud to know you hahahaha

  2. Pingback: The Thingthings in Our Minds | frizzyhaired|musings

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