When Do Strangers Stop Being Strange?

My grandmother always told me that I could turn strangers into friends. Well, my grandmother would be proud of me. I turned a stranger into a husband.

Article by Knight Pierce Hirst

As children we're taught not to talk to strangers. Maybe that's why we don't talk in elevators. Instead we watch the floor numbers change. If that's so fascinating it makes us speechless, there are a few politicians I wish would ride elevators more.

According to my grandmother, a few kind words can turn someone you don't know into a friend. It's worked for me with neighbours and co-workers. It's worked with people I see regularly and people I've met when I've travelled. However, it doesn't always work. Some strangers fall into the category of – stranger than fiction.

My grandmother had a philosophy about strange strangers too. She believed peoples' eyes are the windows of their souls and … their smiles are the welcome mats.

Sometimes the transition from welcome mat to home-sweet-home pillow can be too fast – like with my sons' girlfriends. I thought girlfriends should be called friendgirls as long as my sons were paying for their dates with their allowances.

My sons often spent their allowances on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is a place that dares to be different. You see people with tattoos, piercings and day-glow hair. There are people walking lizards and people with parrots on their shoulders and snakes around their necks. They look strange to me, but that makes me smile. I look strange to them too.

What people wear, where they come from and how they talk is packaging. In my family we know packaging. We have Cousin Walter. Cousin Walter also dares to be different. In fact, some of his dizzyingly uncoordinated outfits make me wish he got dressed with a safety net under him.

There's not much I can do for Cousin Walter; but when I see a woman who has coordinated her look from polished toe nails to not-wash-and-wear hair, I feel compelled to tell her if a label is showing. I do it because I'd appreciate a woman doing it for me. Of course, I'd appreciate it if a label showing was the only thing that was wrong with my look.

Label alerts are a random act of kindness. So are holding doors, helping with heavy bags and putting coins in expired parking meters. I think random acts of kindness – like charity – should begin at home. Thankfully, my family thinks it's a random act of kindness when I suggest we go out for dinner.