It’s typically not wise to get in a car with a stranger.
But it might be acceptable if it’s a parked car with the promise of warmth and Destiny’s Child.
We have the opportunity to meet a lot of people in life, but some of them we won’t ever talk to. In some cases, that might be for the best. In others, though, we might miss out on moments we truly need in life.
When we’re little kids, we’re usually taught not to talk to strangers, which is probably a good thing because of all of the dangers that are out there in the world. It’s a sad reality. But when we get older, how far does the “stranger danger” belief have to go? Personally, I like talking to people I know and people I don’t know. I like to hear their stories and learn interesting tidbits about life from them—like when a mountain man I met while I was taking a break on a ski trip in my college years told me that mittens actually keep your hands much warmer than gloves do. To this day, I think about that conversation every time I put on gloves or mittens. I think one thing I love most about meeting new people is being reminded that every single person matters, and so many of them can quickly show you that there’s still a lot of good in this world.
One day last week, I went with my coworker/friend Michelle during our lunch break to grab ice for an event later that day. When we got in her car to head back to the office, the car didn’t start. She kept turning the key, and the car would sound like it was trying to start, but it just wouldn’t. I told her to pop the hood (as if I actually knew what I was doing), and I went to look in the engine while she kept trying to start it. I had zero clue what I was even looking for, but thankfully some guy came over to try to help. He thought it was the battery, but he couldn’t get the battery cover to pop off, so he suggested we call Triple A. I kept flagging strangers down to ask if they had jumper cables, and I was baffled at how many people don’t carry those around with them (or maybe they do).
Thankfully, some high school baseball players were happy to help and happened to have the cables. Their efforts failed (it turns out it wasn’t a battery issue at all, and her car had to be towed), but we were grateful for their willingness to help, and I was glad to learn how to hook up cables to jump-start a car. We didn’t know those young guys, and we will likely never see them again, but they helped us out when we felt helpless.
Then came Saturday, which was full of strangers all over the place. It was the annual Dallas St. Patrick’s Parade & Festival, which means more than 120,000 people were roaming around Greenville. Even though the previous weekend gave us 80-degree weather and time at the pool, Saturday’s high was barely 60 with morning temps in the low 40s. And it was windy, which means it felt like it was about 17 degrees out, give or take a few.
When my coworker/friend Fred (her real name is Emily, but I don’t call her that) and I arrived to watch the 5K race, I wondered why the weather had to hate us that day—I was wearing two pairs of pants and boots and had three layers on underneath my snowboarding jacket, and I was still cold. After the race ended, we went to go meet our coworkers so that we could stand another two-and-a-half hours IN THE COLD before the parade was set to begin. We were standing at a corner waiting to hear back from them on where they were exactly, and I’m guessing it was pretty obvious we were freezing our tails off, because the next thing we knew, some lady parked right by us opened her door and asked if we wanted to get in her car to stay warm. Fred looked at me questionably, but I made the call and hopped in the back seat of the woman’s car. She introduced herself as Shannon, and boy was she a firecracker!
Shannon apologized for the smoke smell (it was slightly suffocating), and she told us about her husband who “works with NFL teams” (not sure what exactly he does) and began chatting about a variety of things. She even handed us a CD book to pick out some tunes to dance to. Homegirl can dance. While I didn’t mind the LL Cool J she had playing, when I spotted her Destiny’s Child CD, I handed it to her, and she was delighted. That car was hopping as soon as “Bootylicious” was fired up. I wasn’t sure how Fred felt about this situation, but she looked a little uncomfortable, so I thanked Shannon and told her it was time for us to go find our group—even though it was much warmer in her car. We didn’t know that woman, and we may never see her again, but she helped us when we were feeling helpless.
I encountered many more people I didn’t know that day: There was the woman who let me cut in front of her in the line for the Porta Potty, the little girl who helped me get warmer by making me play “Ring around the Rosie” until I was dizzy, the Harley Davidson guy who gave me a new perspective on why burgers and sunshine can often overshadow the bad things in life, the woman who complimented my hair after a coworker’s kid said it looked like an octopus, and so many other people who probably have incredible stories and insights into life. They help us when we feel helpless.
I know you shouldn’t necessarily talk to every single person out there. There are certainly people who have cruel motives, but sometimes you simply have to trust that the right people have been put in your path at the right time. They might be there to help you in some way, or perhaps you’re helping them out somehow.
We really all need each other—strangers don’t always have to remain strange to us.