Stranger Danger?

22.9.14


DISCLAIMER - We're about to get deep

From a young age, most of us were warned about 'stranger danger' - "Don't speak to people you don't know" and "don't take anything from strangers" was drilled into me by my family for as long as I can remember. Then, when you reach a certain age, you are suddenly encouraged to engage with strangers or as it's known in some circles, 'networking'.

It's strange to think of all the people we pass every day on our commutes, in the supermarket or whilst sat in traffic, people who we will never see again, speak to or even know their name. You won't know how their day was, how they're feeling or why they're feeling like that. I'd never considered any of this until the other day, when something I can only describe as profound happened to me.

I was commuting home on my usual crammed train. I rushed on board as soon as the doors opened (yup, I've become one of those) and sat down on the first free seat I saw. Once settling down and taking a breather, I heard heavy breathing and sniffing next to me. Beside me sat a girl, probably a bit older than myself, sobbing her heart out. I haven't seen someone look so inconsolable in a really long time - she was pale, red eyed and shaking.

Although I'm embarrassed and perhaps slightly ashamed to admit, I have done my fair share of crying on public transport. Sometimes things in your life are too upsetting to confine to your bedroom and you can't control yourself. I asked if she was okay. I knew the answer, but what else could I say? She shook her head and there was a pause, I felt stupid and slightly annoyed at myself. She then simply said: "My fiancé is cheating on me" and bowed her head, her shoulders shaking from crying so much.

It was such an emotionally charged situation that even I felt upset. I didn't say anything because no words can console that feeling. Instead I put my hand on hers and she held my hand til I gave it a squeeze and got off at the next stop.

There is a lot to be said about the danger of strangers but also much to be said about the need for kindness. We, unfortunately, live in a world where we expect the worst from people we don't know, keeping an eye on our bag on the tube, passing off looks from people as negative, keeping ourselves to ourselves.

The fact is that there are a lot of bad people in the world but there are also a hell of a lot of brilliant, kind people in the world and also people who are in need. You never know someone else's inner turmoil and what is going on in their life. A smile can go a long way, as can comforting someone when they're visibly upset or helping someone when they're struggling to carry something. You never know how much something seemingly small you do for someone can brighten their day.


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