The Kindness of Strangers [Resolutions 21 & 22]

Change is constant.  There is no doubt about that.  If you’re not changing, if you’re world isn’t changing, you aren’t truly alive.  There is value and comfort in stability, but we as humans are evolutionary creatures, we crave the ability to change and grow even if we don’t realize that’s so.

Recently, with all the change that’s going on in my life, I’ve likewise attracted people who are just as conscious of that craving as I am. Some people are chasing the same thing; some people are confident on their path and intentionally reach out and help those who are currently on the chase. Some people don’t even know the impact they have or will have on you, they just do what they do best and in the process–change you.

Dane, the now good friend from a few posts ago, is a little “all of the above.”  Since we first spent time together he has made it his personal mission to help me accomplish as many resolutions as humanly possible before the year’s end.  Though it is now unfeasible to complete my entire list (but that’s okay), every time we’ve met since our initial brunch outing he’s had something up his sleeve.  I have so many posts to catch up now just because I can’t write faster than he’s able to pull together resolutions with me.  (A big public thank you to you Dane!)

One of the more recent ones was:

Resolution #22: Write a letter to a stranger.

I don’t know why I didn’t think to google this to find a way to make it happen, but luckily Dane did and stumbled across Letters From Strangers.  A woman named Katie started it back in 2009 as a social experiment and community art project aiming to connect people all over the world in complete anonymity.  Basically, you compose a letter to a complete stranger. You are free to say whatever you want, include pictures, paintings, anything you would like to share. You may then mail the letter to Katie along with a self-addressed stamped envelope.  She places another stranger’s letter in your envelope to mail to you, and sends your letter in someone else’s.

You will never know who composed the letter you receive, where they are, their gender, their age, and they will never know you, though you’ve both likely opened a very intimate part of your soul to each other. It’s very poetic when you consider it.

I will refrain from posting the letter that I wrote, since if by some miracle its recipient stumbled across my blog it would no longer be anonymous.  I don’t want to take that chance, but I will share with you the letter that I received in return. I hoped, as I sent off my letter, that somehow its message would land in the exact hands that needed to receive it at the time.  Well, I don’t know if its recipient was as lucky as I was, but as I read over every hand-written word, it resonated with me and the exact place I am in life right now.  So, thank you Stranger. You’ll never have any idea, but in some way, big or small, you’ve reached me and changed me for the better.

It’s in pencil, so if you have difficulty reading it, here is the transcription of the front and back (not pictured):

Dear Stranger,

Do you ever want to quit?
Turn your life back and forget this place exists?
Run like Hell till even God couldn’t find you?
Stop and leave this whole mess behind you?

Don’t.

Don’t skip out on this life we call a rollercoaster. Because even rollercoasters are fun,
Right?

If you feel like giving up,
run.
But not from your problems.
Just run to feel the hot sidewalk burn a greeting to your feet.
Run towards someone you love.
Run to feel the burn in your muscles and remember you’re alive.
Run through the hard stuff and run toward happy things.
Run.

If you’re feeling blue,
remember all of the beautiful blue things in life.
The sky.
The mountains.
Eyes.
Flowers.
The ocean.

GO LOOK AT THEM.

When you feel like you’re going to break down, remember that even the most efficient cars need a tune up.

But remember to use your support systems.  Because cares need a jack to be lifted up and maybe you do too.
Cars don’t fix themselves.
Use your favorite mechanic.

So if everything is crashing down around your ears, look for some music in the cacophony.
Build a structure out of the debris.

And if you need a little boost,
don’t
forget
to
remember
me.

Lots of love from your new favorite stranger.

Resolution #21: Learn a new skill.

Another Dane resolution brought me into the capable hands of a handful of other kind strangers who would teach me the new skill of hula hooping.

We started by getting together one afternoon and making our very own hula hoops.  I wish I had pictures, but sadly I do not, so the above is an example of hoops that look a little like ours.  Dane went out and purchased pipe, connectors and electrical tape and had everything ready and laid out when I came over one day to hang out. We measured out our hoops, making them large for easy practice hoops, and connected the ends to make rings. Then, we tore into the electrical tape and I carefully wrapped my hoop in black, orange and yellow (now fondly named “The Jack o’ Lantern”) and Dane wrapped his in his signature blue, white and yellow.

We spent a few minutes in the backyard practicing basic hooping. Just getting it to stay up and moving around my waist proved a bit more difficult than I remembered as a kid. After a quarter-hour of wondering if my hips were dysfunctional, I finally got the movement down and found myself able to at least keep the hoop from falling around my ankles. Progress!  But that was just about as far as our basic knowledge could take us.

I allowed the hoops to sit in my room unused for a few days, but as we packed our things for Orfunner I tossed the hoops in the car with our camping gear.  What better place to get some practice in than a giant open campground?  Not to mention an event that was likely to have more than a few master hoopers in attendance.

After setting up camp, Jane and I went into a clearing near our camp and began to practice what few little tricks we knew. A few minutes later a stranger emerged from the trees and watched us quietly for a few minutes before approaching us. She asked for nothing, but explained that she’d been hooping for over ten years and was happy to offer us some tips if we wanted them. She hung out with us for about half an hour, just watching, demonstrating and critiquing.

By the time she left, I could hoop both clockwise and counter-clockwise as well as do the part of ‘the corkscrew.’ I could spin the hoop from my waist to over my head, but just couldn’t quite master getting it back down around my waist.  It didn’t matter; in the moment I felt WILDLY accomplished.

The hoops went back into dormancy after Orfunner, just for lack of time and space to practice, but this past Thursday I brought them out again for Hooping Happy Hour at The Vortex here in Austin.  Another stranger and master hooper, Cedar Stevens, shows up there every Thursday to hoop and teach hooping to anyone who shows up wanting to learn. (Seriously, if you live in Austin, you should come out and try it out.  It’s SO much fun!)

When she arrived, hoops in hand, she greeted us with sprite like enthusiasm.  She already knew Dane and greeted him by name, then introduced herself to me.  We picked up right where I had left off, attempting to complete a successful corkscrew. She, and another beautiful stranger Sharon watched me closely and both offered their suggestions.  Again, progress!  After an hour or so of hooping and chatting with these lovely ladies and Dane I could do the corkscrew (nearly) every time I attempted it and again felt privileged and enlightened to have made the acquaintance of a group of strangers so ready and willing to offer their expertise for nothing in return but the satisfaction of knowing that they helped out a newbie.

It all started with a stranger, turned acquaintance, turned very close friend Dane.  And, it opened me up to a whole world of strangers who, unbeknownst to them, have changed my life.  Not only by writing me a letter, or teaching me how to hoop, but by showing me that there is still kindness in strangers.  They proved that not everyone puts a price on their expertise. Not everyone saves their best and kindest words only for people they know. Not everyone approaches someone unknown with cynicism or doubt. They embrace them with trust and love.

And you know what?  It inspires me to do the same.

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4 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers [Resolutions 21 & 22]

  1. Reblogged this on Motivating For Positive Change and commented:
    This is such a neat idea…I love it.

    The rest of this blog is just awesome as well…I suggest all to read it, be inspired and do something nice for people in the world.
    There is no one way better to create and motivate for positive change than doing kind acts for people!

    As for this post…I love the idea that you can write letters to strangers…

    Here’s another idea to build upon this. Why couldn’t we just open the phone book, or get online or something and get a whole bunch of random addresses. Then send out thank you and positive messages to these random people.

    Imagine the wave of positive energy and happiness you would generate.

    How else could we anonymously contact people to create positive change?

    • This is all so true! You don’t just have to wait for a window of opportunity like that site. You could reach out to strangers any time.

      I heard of a new trend where in drive thrus people are randomly paying for the person behind them in line. Just to be nice. It’s anonymous and for a complete stranger. I think in going to try that soon. 🙂

      • That is so cool!! Yesterday, I decided I was going to pay for someone else the whole day…i paid for a slurpee, a happy meal, 10 dollars of dollar store stuff, and I found a bunch of stuff on the side of the road and donated it to a shelter..they were estatic.

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