Why Strangers Shouldn’t be Strange

“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”

-William Butler Yeats

Think about how many “strangers” you meet in a day, that you don’t open yourself up to getting to know. How many opportunities to learn and to grow do you think have passed you by?

The store I work at does vending at different fairs and festivals. For a few days I was asked to cover shifts at a well-known fair. In order to get into the event, we had to park off-site (about ten minutes away from the fair). From that parking lot, we fair-goers and employees get onto a bus and get off at our specified stop. This time going, I was the first person to get onto the bus and decided to sit in the very first seat. As I was observing other people getting onto the bus, I saw a very friendly older man walk in and say to the the driver “We’re nearing the end here!” I assumed that he was referring to the fair only having a few days left, so I figured he must be working for the fair like me, I giggled and smiled at him.

Then he walked over and asked if he could sit next to me, and I replied “Yes!”

I asked which part of the fair he worked for and he told me he was actually a volunteer with the Railroad club. He (the president of the club) and the club members go to the fair every year to set up a whole moving railroad city for people to enjoy. He told me all about his schooling when he was younger and how much he’s always enjoyed engineering. We talked about our passions and he told me how his club operates, how it’s funded, and how much work goes into setting up this whole interactive and moving display.

We approached our stop and as we walked up to the entrance together I told him that I’d like to come and see the display before I went into work. I had left home early so I had enough time to go and check it out. He got excited and said, “Okay, yes I’ll put you to work in helping me to turn the trains on!”

As we walked up to the display, we both realized that his partner had gotten there early, and had already turned the trains on. I realized how big the model was (at least 15-20 feet long) and how much work had to go into every tiny detail. From the small little man canoeing in a river, to the cattle grazing in a field, to the multiple trains on several tracks that had to be placed so meticulously so as to not have them colliding with each other, to the men chopping wood, to the water cascading throughout this city, to the big tornado swirling around; just so many ideas all together to create this miniature town! He walked me around with another club member and explained to me that there was nothing there before they began the process, they created the valleys and bridges, added the water flowing, added the flowers and greenery, all of the buildings’ structures, everything, and they had six weeks to do it. It was all originally planned on paper, and then they went to work on creating the physical equivalent.

The fair’s theme for 2019 was “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” so throughout the railroad city, there were elements from the movie. As we walked around to the other side, he and his friend were excited to show me one specific part, it was the part where one of the trains begins going into a barn house right through a tornado, and when it comes out of the other side of the barn, the train is transformed into a multi-colored one that drives through a colorful, magical city, full of rainbows and glitter (The land of Oz). The timing associated with getting that normal train all around the rest of the city to this moment where it goes into a barn to come out of the other side as a magic train just blew my mind, and I was so thrilled because I hadn’t expected it.

Now think about that word timing for a second. I live an hour and a half away from the fair. On this specific day, I woke up when I decided to wake up, got ready in the time I did, had the idea to leave a little early, had to have left my house at the precise moment that I did, and he had to have left from his home at that specific time as well. If we were just minutes off, if I was there only five minutes earlier I would have been on an entirely different bus with different people. Now really let that set in. It really helps you to see that every single manifested moment is not a coincidence, it’s not by fluke. Every person you meet is there because of the choices each of you has made to be put onto each other’s paths and to make it to that moment in time. If you see each moment as such, you’ll understand the power of every single moment.

If I had shut him out, if I had said “No you can’t sit here” If I had assumed that this man had nothing good to offer me, if I had put my earphones in my ears and stared at my phone, if I had not been open to understanding him, to learn about his desires and his passions; that moment would have never happened. We should be seeing each person we come into contact with as an opportunity to learn, as a new opportunity to understand someone and to be able to better understand ourselves in return. Befreind the world and it befriends you. The word stranger should just mean “Someone that I have not yet decided to understand” and not “Someone who I will close myself off too because I know nothing about them and so I am afraid of them.” Strangers are not scary, they are human just like you and I, and they have the capacity to bring much joy into our lives. Even if it’s only for one small moment of time to show you how proud they are of something they’ve spent so much time creating.

How much work has gone into all of the little details of your own life? How many ideas and actions came before the manifestation of the cars you drive, the gas stations you fill your car with and the people working there, or the stop lights that keep everyone from bumping into each other? What about the home you live in and the work that went into it before it actually became a home, a home that began in a place where there was at one point, only dirt, and before it was just dirt, it was only an idea in a person’s mind. How much work has gone into your own physical body, to bring you here to this manifested moment? How does your stomach digest food and use it for energy, where does your food even come from? Suddenly when you look at the world that way, it all becomes a miracle– a “magical city.”

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