Like when you’re across town, it’s exciting if a stranger turns out to be literally from the general vicinity of your house. But if you’re across the country, you get excited if they’re from your city. And if you’re across the world, you get excited if they’re from your country.
When we were on our ski trip last week, we took a hot chocolate break at a large communal table filled with other strangers, exchanging smiling glances and little else. Until a group from Germany sat across from us and began asking polite questions about the food. It took all of 3 minutes for banter about the merits of chili over tortellini soup to segue to the fact that my parents once lived in Germany—which, naturally, caused the law-of-‘hood to kick in. Suddenly we were pals getting to know each other, not too shy to ask intimate questions or offer up personal anecdotes. We had nothing in common beyond this tenuous link, but it was … something … something that gave us a starting point to real connectedness.
After our charming respite, we all went our separate ways, glad for the few minutes of camaraderie. Phil turned to me and noted how we seem to connect more quickly to strangers if we feel like we’re all from the “same place”. We wondered about this for a while, hypothesizing that it might be because of our tribal natures, or it might come out of a more modern need to remind ourselves that we are all related somehow. I mean, with our newfangled Heinz 57 heritages, each one of us can find some obscure connection to almost everyone we meet. It truly is 6 degrees of separation.
Now, I’m not saying we need to feel a tribal connection to people in order to enjoy them or want to find out more about them, but I can’t help wondering about how cool it is to experience that thrill of recognition between two strangers.
I’m now looking forward to the day when we’ll be all, “I can’t help noticing from your accent that you’re from the Milky Way Galaxy. Cool, me too. Hey, do you know my pal Deb McGrath?”
Deb: Barb, I relate to this so very much. And let’s face it, since the beginning of time we have been saying to strangers we meet, “So, where are your people from?”
I think that as the world gets bigger with population and smaller with social networks, we crave the face to face intimacy that comes from meeting someone from your village, be it a city, country, or … well … village. I don’t think we do this to exclude or to segregate, we do this to counter the vastness of our planet with the chance meeting of a street party.