A few weeks ago I began researching an idea for an article based on an A-Z of Wellbeing, a quick and fun little reference of things that are good for you. In this piece, I readily admitted have to search hard for something for the letter X – something that was worthwhile and didn’t just seem like I was ticking a box.
What I came up with was Xenomania, the love of meetings strangers.
At the time, it seemed like a really positive addition to the article as I could think of many, many times where a stranger had made my day… someone who gave you something to smile about whilst waiting in a queue, or checking out at the register or even just walking the dog down the street. Dogs always seem to give us an open invitation to chat to someone and I find my fluffy chihuahua (who many of the boys will have seen in assembly videos during lockdown) garners a lot of comments and leads to many nice exchanges with people I might not otherwise have had a chance to chat to.
And the more I ponder the role these little interactions have in our lives, the more important I consider them to be.
While nothing beats the friendship and companionship of those we know well, we should never forget the capacity we each have to improve or even make someone’s day with each and every interaction we have with them. This might be an interesting concept to explore with any Senior Girls, who are looking at Connection as their wellbeing theme this term. We connect with people in large and small ways as we move through our day.
Children are great at this – I marvel sometimes at those children who are totally comfortable starting a conversation with another child at the park and end up playing together happily for up to an hour. They may never have plans to see each other again – but I have certainly seen a young lady in my life add a girl she met in the park to the list of friends she was grateful for that night. And maybe we too as adults should remember that every stranger is just a friend we haven’t met yet.
The internet is full is wisdom about putting positive energy out into the world, and often because you never know what the next person you are about to encounter is going through. Certainly the strangers we encounter and the attitude they show us can be powerful – and this is worthy of us considering as we go about our daily business. How difficult is it really to be conscious of how we are coming across and try intentionally to make people’s days a little better? We explored this last year for Random Acts of Kindness Day too.
Remember all the research that tells us that helping others helps us too – and I think this might even be an example of this. You might even consider it a tiny act of service (which is something the Senior Boys are focused on right now).
In Victoria we have spent months in lockdown over the past 18 months – and during this time we are more likely to miss out on these little interactions as we encounter less of others whilst staying at home. Without so many people that smile at us as we walk down to the street, or chat to us just because the opportunity presents itself, are we poorer? Wouldn’t we have less opportunities to have those moments and bursts of positive emotion? What if you were alone in lockdown? These little incidents – and missing them – could play a big role in a sense of disconnection and isolation.
Xenomania is something we should perhaps all embrace – not only for ourselves, but in this sometimes uncertain world where we are not always around the people that we love. Perhaps like A Streetcar Named Desire’s Blanche DuBois, we should not only believe in the kindness of strangers, but we should attempt to spread that kindness too.
Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels