From the time we are old enough to speak, our parents tell us not to talk to strangers. This is still good advice, well, sort of...
The other day we were in a restaurant and I struck up a conversation with the owner. We talked about the success of her business and how her daughters, like my younger one, had been dancers when they were little. It was a lovely conversation in which I learned a lot about the history of one of my favorite restaurants.
"Mom, did you know that lady?" My daughter asked.
"No, sweetie, I just met her," I replied.
"Then why did you talk to her for such a long time?"
"Because she was nice, and interesting."
For years my children have made fun of me for talking to what they say are "random people."
To be frank, I am a collector of people and their stories. I was an introvert by nature who was nurtured by extroverts. My parents taught me that speaking to strangers was often an opportunity to learn something new. And while its important to exercise caution, I think it's also important for us to model curiosity and a genuine interest in the people and world around us to our children. I believe this interest is what led me to journalism.
The other day I was at the UPS store where I met a woman who had made bookmarks and was mailing them to her friends in California where she used to live. She explained that she had found pressed leaves in an old book that belonged to a beautiful tree indigenous to California. She affixed them between sheets of clear plastic and then cut them into strips.
As I engaged with her, I chuckled inside thinking this was exactly the kind of encounter my daughters would roll their eyes at. I was genuinely interested in her story, and immediately Googled the name of the tree after meeting her to learn more about it. But even more than that, it made me realize that sometimes not speaking to a stranger is a missed opportunity ...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here Mondays.