Reader encourages, ‘Go ahead, talk to strangers’

Mike KnaakLetter to the Editor, Opinion, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen0 Comments

Carol Weiler, Sartell

I agree with the editorial “It’s Time to Talk to Strangers” (in the Dec. 14 Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader). I make an  effort to do so, and it is rewarding.

When my husband and I travel outside of this country, we inevitably wind up eating a meal in a restaurant and striking up a conversation with our  neighbors at the next table. We have learned so much about their cultures and their opinions about America. We learn about places to go known only to natives. We’ve had great conversations with butchers, bakers and Airbnb hosts. After we talk, they are not strangers anymore.

In our own community, I have made contact with “perfect” strangers. My  last conversation was with a woman my age with a head covering at the YMCA pool. I remarked about the pleasant pool temperature and our  conversation continued for a half  hour. She is from Yemen and has  been here for a while. She was warm and friendly. Her favorite form of exercise is belly dancing!

Another contact was just before Eid, a big holiday for Muslims. I saw  a young Somali woman entering Aldi. Should I wish her a good Eid? Would she feel I had overstepped as a non-Muslim? I did it and was rewarded with a broad smile and a thank you. No big deal, but maybe she felt a little more a part of our community that day. I felt  better, too.

I had a very disturbing conversation on Facebook a few months ago. One  person was remarking how threatened they felt by “outsiders” in our  area. They are selling their home of many years to move elsewhere. That person was joined by others who expressed the same sentiments. As  part of the thread, I asked what their complaints were. They said  Somalis were rude and bad drivers. That was it.

I do not feel threatened by our newest neighbors. When you get to know them, as we have, they can be warm, friendly and hospitable. When you  think about what they have been through, their positive attitude about the future is remarkable.

Go ahead. Talk to strangers.

Author: Mike Knaak

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