Some of you may recall that I was nearly kidnapped as a young child. It happened when I was in kindergarten and it was the standard scenario of two men in a car offering candy. So you will understand my mother’s reluctance to let me out of her sight for a few years and her strong admonitions about never speaking to strangers.
My father however, never met a stranger. Anyone breathing seemed to interest him and he was always ready to swap stories and ideas. If a person made eye contact with him they got a conversation, whether they wanted it or not. For years my primary function as a child was to intervene and get Dad to go back to the car, house, or whatever so we could continue on with our lives. It was a difficult task since my mother had also taught me not to interrupt a conversation between two adults!
The life of a child is often filled with such mixed messages from parents. Most think they are operating as a team- a cohesive unit with the same values, rules, and expectations. But that is seldom the real situation. I’ve found that most successful marriages are the result of two complementary- opposite yet balancing- personalities finding each other. If people are too similar they can’t stand each other! Lol
So…by observing my father I learned how to be friendly and engaging in almost any situation, with almost any type of person. By observing my mother I learned when to restrain from doing so.
I was reminded of all this yesterday as I sat in the waiting room of a local medical service, waiting for a copy of a report that I was asked to obtain. The only other person sitting there was an older forlorn-looking woman. As soon as she realized what I was waiting for she spoke to me.
“I’m waiting for one too. I have to take it to another doctor.”
“Same here. Going to a new podiatrist.”
“I just found out I have severe osteoporosis. They said I have to be very careful or I might break a hip.”
Oh…to talk or not to talk…
About fifteen minutes later we walked out to the parking lot together. We hadn’t exchanged names or any other personal information, just some thoughts about illness and doctors and treatments and hope for better health. I left with gratitude that I am only having a few problems with a foot. I hope she left with a little more confidence about being able to deal with her condition. I will pray for her.
Strangers are just other people. And some desperately need for us to take the time to talk to them.