Today as I walked home from school, I came across a little boy sat in an entrance to one of the squares I usually cut through on my journey. It’s not like it was anything major, he wasn’t blocking the way- I was going to walk past. But something made me stop and go sit with him. He was so young, around 5, so I thought I better check he was okay… We spoke vaguely for a few minutes (Me asking if he lived nearby, who was looking after him and him quietly answering in single words), until his mum walked up and explained he had been refusing to move so thank you for checking he was alright.
It’s nothing much, I get that, but it left me with so many questions… What if he didn’t want to go because of bad things happening at home? Or maybe he was waiting for something particular that he thought would happen? I guess I don’t know. But my other question was, how often do we really talk to strangers?
Sure, there’s shop assistants and baristas who you speak briefly with, but what about a full conversation? The most personal level you reach when ordering a drink in Costa is the type of milk you want in your coffee. I’m not encouraging a full on yearly account of your life to the cashier in Tesco, but it’s important not to forget that we can be human towards them. Not everyone is out to get you. A lot of the time, “stranger danger” is the most likely out of the safety rules we know to be misunderstood.
From a quick bit of research, I found that a 2000 report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs states that less that 1/4 of all cases of kidnapping were not committed by strangers. Just don’t follow anyone down a dark alley when that clearly have a knife and you should be fine.
If anything, I’d encourage speaking with strangers. It’ll broaden your horizons- teach you a sense of diversity- you will learn new things. There are always going to be risks and certain factors that may make people more vulnerable, but although safety around strangers does need enforcing, it could do without exaggerating as well. If you ever feel yourself living in constant fear of those around you, just remind yourself, most of them are probably thinking the same thing.