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When I was younger, I was told time and time again NOT to talk to strangers. They had the evil ability to kidnap little girls and take them away from their mommies and daddies forever. As I get older I am starting to realize something else about strangers as well. They sometimes provide me with the most eye-opening perspectives on life. Probably because these people don’t have anything to lose/gain by talking to me and are probably giving me unbiased, non-judgmental advice without actually realizing it. And they have no agenda since they don’t actually know me.

Like yesterday. I spent 30 minutes in an Uber, where my initial plan was to eat my Milano dark chocolate cookies and drink my tea in blissfully peaceful silence. Instead, when the man starting talking to me, I found myself grudgingly drawn into a conversation around yoga and meditation. The guy had never tried it before so I was telling him about how it has helped me a lot during every phase of my life. Somehow that diverted into a conversation about how his life is currently terrible (we didn’t discuss details) and that the only solace he gets is driving around for Uber. How talking to strangers is his peace and escape from the reality of people he does not want to interact with in his own life.

It made me feel sad for him. I even sat back and judged him a little initially. But then I realized, sometimes that is what we all need. While I wouldn’t trade the support I have from my loved ones for anything in this world, I do understand the need to remove myself from my everyday life and people so that I may gain a different perspective. I felt myself reaching out to this stranger and offering him comfort in the form of encouragement. Encouragement to try yoga so that it may bring him some peace from whatever emotional turmoil he is trying to escape. I also did a quick internal check and secretly thanked my stars that my current life phase can be classified as happy. It made me think about another stranger-related incident that happened to me a few weeks ago.

I was walking Leo when I came across this older gentleman in a wheelchair. This man wanted to pet Leo and kept trying to reach down but was hindered by his wheelchair so I tried bringing Leo to him. Leo however, was terrified of the wheelchair and kept backing away from him, which I could tell was painful for the man. So I coaxed Leo closer to him until he knew it was safe and let the man play with him. Oh my god.. the smile on his face had me blinking back tears and pretending to tie my shoe. He then looked at me and said, “They’re the greatest cure, aren’t they?” And my heart just broke.

I’ve been seeing this man pretty frequently around the neighborhood. I don’t see him with anyone else which leads me to believe he might be living alone. He is usually quiet and seems to love dogs but rarely gets to pet them possibly because the dogs are nervous/too excited around the wheelchair, or owners feel they’d be disrespecting him if they let their dogs jump around his equipment, I’m not sure.

It definitely makes me reevaluate the nonsensical non issues that exist in my own life. If I stopped being selfish for one second and really reflected, I’d see that I really do have it all: an unbreakable network of loved ones, the use of my arms and legs, the ability to vote, drive, read, write, love, dance, sing and do whatever my heart desires really. I don’t always realize this though. It is too easy to get sucked into the downward spiral of materialistic wants and petty human trivialities, isn’t it?

Lucky I have strangers to remind me when I start to lose sight of what is important in this life.