I was walking alone down a gravel road in a forest near the B&B where my husband and I were staying in North Carolina. The stranger appeared suddenly from behind a barn, and moved quickly toward me, despite the effects of age, a big belly and short waddling legs.
Instinct kicked in first. Was this a good stranger or a bad stranger? I decided not to be afraid. “Well hello!” I said cheerfully and loudly. “How are you today?”
The stranger rushed to my feet and nuzzled her nose against my hand. Her stub tail flickered so quickly it was a blur. Her joy at meeting me was so full, she couldn’t find the best way to express herself. So she just dropped to the ground and rolled over on her back, flailing in the gravel in sheer glee.
When we meet someone new,we automatically default to being cautious. What do they want from us? Are they safe? What will they think about us?
In the small town where I live, saying hello to strangers is not uncommon. But when I visited New York City once, a friend was appalled at my tendency to say “Good morning!” to perfect strangers. “You NEVER talk to people you don’t know!” she admonished.
To me, saying hello to strangers is a privilege. What a miracle it is that we have crossed paths, even for a moment. In each stranger I see a brother or sister of the world, and I acknowledge that we are connected through God. Sometimes the hello goes into a conversation, and in such times I have discovered that these strangers are my muses, my angels and my teachers in disguise.
In these days and times it is prudent to be cautious. But we need to find safe places and times to give a smile and a greeting to the neighbors who cross our paths. They are there with us, in that moment, for a very special reason and lesson.
Even little Jean (that was the doggie’s name) recognizes that meeting a stranger is a joyful occasion. That is what she taught me that day.
But rolling around in the gravel is a little extreme for me. For now, I’ll stick to a wave.