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60 Second Idea

I Know Your Mom Told You Not To…

“Don’t talk to strangers.” It’s one of the oldest lessons in the book. It’s right up there with looking both ways before crossing the street. When you’re a kid, the lesson is valid. But when you’re an adult, I say throw it out the window. Sorry, Mom.

Say hi to strangers. That’s my 60-second idea to improve the world. It may sound creepy, but hear me out. I walk around Bucknell’s campus every day and without fail, when two people who don’t know one another pass each other, they look in opposite directions, they stare blankly ahead, or they whip out their cell phones and pretend to be texting. It’s ridiculous. We’re all part of a community here and we don’t even feel comfortable enough to look at each other, to smile at each other, and god forbid, to say hi to one another? This has got to be fixed.

We only ever think about the lives we touch of people we know. Our friends, our families, our boyfriends, our girlfriends, our colleagues. But what about touching people’s lives we don’t know? A smile or a hello to a stranger could do just that.

One of my absolute favorite things is to make new friends. Often, we make friends from mutual connections. But what about all the people that fall outside our social circles? We’re missing out on them just because we’re a little shy, just because we don’t know how it will turn out if we break the silence between strangers and utter that single two-letter word: “Hi.” As people, we thrive on human connection. Yet by being afraid to talk to strangers, we are limiting ourselves.

The next stranger you see, say hi. I dare you. You may fall in love. You may hate each other. You may learn something new. You may become best friends. Either way, no matter how it ends up, it’s worth a shot.



10 thoughts on “I Know Your Mom Told You Not To…

  1. I agree with this way to improve the world! I always awkwardly wave and say hi to people and rarely get a reply…maybe this is for some reason I don’t know about, but generally I feel like it is just because people arn’t friendly. Sometimes I even have to force hello’s out of people. And now I sound like a big loser

    Posted by Catherine Gibbons | April 24, 2012, 12:43 pm
  2. Don’t feel like a loser Catherine! I say hi to people all the time. I find that adults and professors are those that typically will say hi back, or at least give a smile. It’s so awkward to walk one another, staring off to space, purposely avoiding eye contact. That is no way to live. Though, I am often on my phone or half asleep walking around campus, so I probably look like one of those students quite often. Saying hi to strangers can be the stepping stone for meeting new people, finding new connections to jobs (networking), or simply putting a smile on someone’s face.

    Posted by Danielle Marquette | April 24, 2012, 1:01 pm
  3. Beth! I love this post. So often we close ourselves off to meeting new people. Sometimes I guess we think we are already “set” with friends. This is a complete shame. There are so many people out there with great stories and wonderful personalities. I don’t think we should ever limit ourselves to how many people we accept in our friend groups or how many people we talk to. I personally love meeting new people, which is why (although I’m very sad to graduate) I am extremely excited to move into the next chapter of my life and meet more people from different backgrounds.

    Posted by Jenna | April 24, 2012, 1:09 pm
  4. I agree with you Beth! After my freshmen year, I spent the summer in the Outer Banks, NC where the beach culture is quite different than up North. I found myself consistently talking with strangers from on the beach to the grocery store. Its not only a great way to meet new people but to also make someones day(It also helps when everyone that you talk with is on vacation)! I found myself being very friendly and even started to do random acts of kindness for people including paying for someones couple of groceries when they were looking away. When I came back to Bucknell in the fall, I had a huge shock. I kept that same positive attitude and said hi to everyone I passed but no one would say anything back. I got really depressed from all the rejection so I stopped doing it and save the friendly attitude for the summer. But your post has inspired me to switch to my summertime identity!

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | April 24, 2012, 2:55 pm
  5. I definitely agree with this. I’m extremely guilty of looking the opposite direction and/or taking my cell phone out to pretend to text. Bucknell’s campus is so small that I inevitably will see someone I know – either an acquaintance I’ve only talked with once or a good friend. There is always that person I’ll pass whom I used to talk to freshman year but have completely fallen out of touch with ever since. Some of these people I don’t even say hi to! I’m generally a somewhat shy person but have tried lately to say hi to those people whom I kind of know or recognize. It’s not easy, but I agree it’s worth it. It just makes you feel better.

    Posted by Ben K. | April 24, 2012, 5:37 pm
  6. Beth, what a lovely idea! You made such a convincing argument for this too. One of the best things about being abroad is that no one I traveled with did this – every single student on that ship was SO friendly and SO welcoming, all the time. I have never in my life been in a community like that, and I can’t tell you how much more connected I feel to the SAS community because of it. Plus our friendships are so much deeper. I wholeheartedly support this idea, and I’m totally going to start doing it tomorrow 🙂

    Posted by Caitlin H. | April 24, 2012, 9:16 pm
  7. This is SO true Beth. Your post relates a lot to Jenna’s, since even a smile between two strangers could make that person’s day. It’s pretty ridiculous that even on Bucknell’s campus we follow the rule of “don’t talk to strangers” because, if you really think about it, we’re not strangers at all!

    Posted by alyssakinell | April 24, 2012, 10:27 pm
  8. Where is the cool picture from??!?

    Posted by Jordi | April 25, 2012, 9:02 am
  9. That is a lot of people to smile at… do I have to smile at all of them?

    Posted by Jordi | April 25, 2012, 9:03 am

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