Tag: strangers

Talking to Strangers


💫 Sometimes, life seems to be chocked full of changes. I have noticed as I’ve gotten older, they occur rapidly. Several friends passed away recently, and my wife and I have had concerns about our health lately. Quite a few of our friends and family are struggling with health problems. With all of our issues, as we age, an emerging body of research shows that talking with strangers can make us feel more optimistic, boost our empathy and sense of belonging, and give us a feeling of connection.

That explains why my attitude always is positive. As a younger man, I wasn’t that way. Still, when I met my wife in the early 1990s, I noticed she would unexpectedly start a conversation with a stranger. That may be why she was so personable and easy to be around. I tried it and discovered, to my surprise, that when I did, it made me feel good; some of the stress in my life evaporated, and I had a feeling of self-worth. Thanks in part to my wife and my wiliness to try something different to improve my life, I now have many, many friends, and I feel a vital part of the community I live in. We have several close friends, but many more make us feel welcome to enter their world as we invite them to interact in ours. 

I have become a fan of the adage, “Don’t count your money, count your friends.” Talking to strangers is easy and often results in a stimulating conversation. As a young kid with nothing to do, I learned how a friendly chat can entertain and stave off boredom. Still, I outgrew that lesson as a young adult and didn’t relearn it until I met my wife. 

Sometimes, my wife kinda wishes I wasn’t so talkative, and I know this because she has told me so 😊. I know what I say is no more important than someone else’s. I often walk away from a conversation thinking that something I said didn’t sound exactly like I meant it to, but that’s a risk you take when you’re guilty of taking too much. I’m guilty of cutting someone off before they finish their thought, and I’m working on improving in that area.

Besides my wife, I know others who talk easily to strangers. My high school classmate, Elsie Dee, whom I still stay in touch with, accomplishes that task easily. My mother was also easily engaged in conversation. I have a few male friends with that trait, my friend Reese being a good example, and so is my friend Mike. All of us must try harder to engage in conversation, whether with a stranger or a friend. We now know there are healthy dividends when we do. 

When I think about how much I engage in conversation, this quote comes to mind, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” ~ Blaise Pascal. Hmm, that’s different from what I’m thinking 😊.   

💫 Envy is all around us if we stop to notice it. It is way more than a troublesome emotion. Psychologists believe that Envy is an emotion that has existed from the beginning of life, that it’s innate, and must be controlled. I believe that it’s an emotion that everybody possesses but to which no one admits. People readily admit to other emotions, like anxiety, depression, inferiority, etc., but Envy? We don’t admit, not even to ourselves, but above all, we keep our Envy a secret from the person whom we envy. No one I have ever known has profited from Envy. On the other hand, many have been cursed by envy. Do you remember the Biblical Cain? He murdered his brother, Abel, because of Envy. What about Joseph? His brothers sold him because of Envy.

What really is Envy? Envy is a bitter feeling which arises when we see another person has something we do not have, but would like to have. This feeling makes one desire to see the envied person hurt, disgraced, or toppled from his position. Envy is like a cancer which slowly takes over a person’s thinking, so that he feels others’ fortunes are his misfortunes; their profit is his loss, their blessing is his bane, their health, his illness, their promotion, his demotion, and their success is his failure. 

It should be noted that Envy isn’t the same as a comparison. Envy involves making comparisons, but to compare is not always to envy. You can compare yourself to another person and yet feel no envy. 

Some psychologists believe that Envy is a learned characteristic which children pick up early in life. It is especially prevalent in people who feel they are failures. Envy is almost always an expression of inferiority. Consciously, or unconsciously, the envious person considers themselves inferior to others, and he doesn’t like it when others succeed. 

Envy affects our thinking so that we look for faults in other people, and we rejoice when they fail. It influences our speech and leads us to gossip, criticize, and spread rumors that can harm others. It hinders our getting along with other people. What is worse is that Envy separates us from God, and he resents Envy!

I am reminded of this quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is a thief of joy.”

💫 My wife and I recently visited some of my high school graduates living a few hours away. We represented the 1959 (me), 1962, 1969, and 1976 classes. There was, perhaps, a dozen of us, including spouses. We all gathered at the Longhorn restaurant to enjoy a good meal and discuss our hometown and old friends. We were a noisy group, and Longhorn patrons at tables close to us could tell we were enjoying ourselves and tolerated the noise we made. It was great talking with people I knew as a teenager or was raised in or near Oakwood, VA. 

There is a special bond among people with similar pasts. Our group of graduates grew up in a coal mining community, so we grew up being pro-coal. As adults, we know that coal is bad for our environment. Still, when you consider eliminating what was responsible for your survival growing up, you face a severe dilemma. The county I grew up in had several hundred coal mines; now, it has two. Back then, the coal was extracted by going into the side of a mountain or strip mining. Today, they dig a shaft down 1,500–2,000 feet and start the process of coal extraction. Sadly, very few coal miners wear masks, so their health suffers over time. Black Lung reparation is so tricky to get it may as well not exist. Many families lose loved ones in their 50s & 60s. 

My father was a coal miner and suffered for 13 years before passing. He had two brothers that were miners, and they suffered a similar fate. 

So, all of us at our get-together several weeks ago had something in common; we had members of our family that benefitted from coal mining but suffered the consequences of that association. We prefer an alternative to coal mining, but realize how much that would affect those still depending on it for jobs. Consciously, I say let’s wean ourselves from coal, but my heart says otherwise.

I go back home every year and have done so since graduation. I plan to continue that until I’m 105 and can no longer drive 😊. When I’m there, I’m back in the 50s & 60s, and I’m home. Everyone there treats me like the Prodigal Son and welcomes me with open arms. What a wonderful feeling that is. That’s when the hillbilly in me gets to escape 😊. I think Lao Tzu hit it on the head when he said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

💫 The current internet buzz is about a new piece of software called ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), developed by a firm called OpenAI, with financial backing from Microsoft ($10 billion). It was launched late last year and has been touted as the next “BIG” thing. 

Essentially, it’s a software model trained to follow thought and language patterns like a human does. Students at Harvard and Yale are having ChatGPT write their thesis. The sad thing is the professors cannot tell whether the student wrote the paper or the Chatbot. With that in mind, I instructed the Chatbot to write one of the three articles above to test that theory. See if you can spot which one, and if you have the inclination 😊, write me (tommyhale@gmail.com) and tell me which one you think it is and why. I included a quote at the end to make it more difficult since I always do it😊.  

Stay Calm, Help Is On The Way

 The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller

She is absolutely right!  The other day I was trying to address a package bound for Russia.  My son, who passed away in June of last year, had someone who was very close to him and lived there.  I had an engraving on a glass ornament with a picture of him that I wanted to send to her. She gave me her address but my wife and I were having difficulty determining how to meet the US Post Office’s requirement for a package leaving the states.  I called the secretary of our church to see if anyone in our congregation could help and was told there was no one that she knew of.  I decided to ask for help on our local area website.   Within 30 minutes I got a response from someone that gave me an online website he thought would help.  I went there but still wasn’t able to figure it out.  Fifteen minutes later I received an email from a young lady named Andrea and she said that she had lived there for a year while attending a Russian university and she was more than willing to help us.  Shortly, she arrived at our home and set to work filling out the necessary paperwork that would satisfy the Postal Service and ensure our package would arrive safely. 

We had been struggling with this problem for quite a long time, and as I watched her diligently complete her task I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  She had gone out of her way to help a stranger that was struggling with a problem she could easily handle.  I believe that is something we all should strive to do at every opportunity.  I do not know this woman very well but I sure wish she and her family were our neighbors.  We already have wonderful neighbors, but she would certainly be a welcomed addition. As she left our home, we stood on the porch and waved goodbye and watched her drive away.  What a wonderful feeling it is to encounter kindness from a total stranger.

The world is divided into three kinds of nations: those that spend a lot of money to keep their weight down; those whose people eat to live; and those that don’t know where their next meal is coming from… David Landes

I think old David is right with his comment about there being three kinds of nations.  As for myself, I have experienced all three.  In the first five years of my life I never knew when I would have my next meal.  I remember picking up orange peels on the side of the road to eat and that would be all the food I had for that day.  I lived with my grandparents (McCoy’s) and their youngest son was only two years older than I was.  He was diagnosed with rickets (Childhood disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin D and sunlight) and wouldn’t take his medicine unless I took it with him, so I did (the doctor said it was ok).  When I was five, I moved in with Mom & Dad (WWII was over), and I started getting regular meals but there wasn’t an abundance of food in our home.  We got three meals a day, there was nothing to snack on except leftover biscuits and cornbread, and a lot of times we ate the same thing day after day (green beans and potatoes).  After graduating from high school and joining the US Air Force, food became more plentiful, and my weight started climbing.  I weighed 156 lbs when I left home, and within a year I was up to 190.  Food was everywhere, and I didn’t know how to say no to all those tasty things that constantly beckoned me.  After a few years of eating everything I wanted, I decided I needed to slim down, so I tried all kinds of diets and diet pills.  I remember one prescription the doctor gave me made me so high that I was waving my hands at complete strangers on my way to work.  I was probably around 25 at the time.

So yes, I have been thru the three stages that David talks about and it is easy to decide which is the best stage to be in.  Luckily, I have devised a plan to deal with it, and it is working 😊.    

Shakespeare added 1,700 words to the English language during his lifetime.  That seems unimaginable to me.  That would almost be enough words for a primitive culture.  We add a lot of new words to our dictionary each year but we never know who coined them. 

It has been estimated that an English-speaking adult has command of 42,000 words at age 20 and 48,000 at age 60.  In comparison, a 1-year-old knows 50 words, a 3-year-old 1,000, a 4-year-old 5,000 and an 8-year-old 10,000. 

Of course, these are only estimates.  I seriously doubt that I know 48,000 words, and I’ll bet you doubt that you know that many.  It was estimated that Shakespeare knew 35,000 words.  Yup!  The same guy credited with adding 1,700 words to our dictionary. 

I’m of the opinion that it’s not necessarily important how many words you have in your arsenal, but how well you use the ones you have.  Great speakers don’t impress us with the vastness of their vocabulary, but by the way they craft their words to illustrate grand ideas, convincing us to do something they consider extraordinary. 

On January 20th, 1961, Jack Kennedy said, “Ask, not what your country can do for you…”  We were impressed with his plea to think of country first. 

We can’t all be great speakers, or great writers, but we can try harder to express our thoughts in a meaningful and clear manner.  We can strive to make The Bard of Avon proud of us 😊.

Of course, Benjamin Franklin would chime in with, “Well done is better than well said.”  He may also have a point.

I was listening to a talk by Ali Muldrow the other day and she said that as a child there was very little crying in her family.  She was determined that when she had children, she would encourage them to show their emotions.  One day she walked into her very young daughter’s bedroom and she was crying.  Upon seeing her mother, the young girl tried to stifle her tears.  Getting down on her knees and looking her in the eyes, Mom said to her, “Sweetheart, teddy bears only drink tears, and they are thirsty”.  The little girl promised her mother to cry more so her teddy bears would have something to drink. 

What a wonderful way to show our children that it’s ok to express how you feel.  I think most of us are guilty of hiding how we really feel.  When criticized, most of us walk away feeling the pain but seldom showing it.  When sad, we suffer internally, never letting it show to the ones we love.  But, if we remember that teddy bears can only drink our tears, then we won’t be reluctant to cry when we need to.  My wife has about 200 teddies so she and I need to cry a lot.

“God gave us crying so other folks could see when we needed help and help us.” ― Joshilyn Jackson

Guest Blog

    No posts found in this category