Anyone growing up in Britain (in the late 70’s and 80’s) undoubtedly will remember the public information films that would pop up between children’s TV programmes.
Do you remember Charley (who never talked to strangers) and The Green Cross Code Man? And I for one never go back to a lit firework!
They are part of a childhood that seemed so much more innocent than those of today. But in reality childhood dangers do not change. There are no more threats today than there were then, although they may come in different guises and via different means.
My main fear as a child was strangers. It was drilled into me from an exceedingly early age ‘never talk to strangers’. It’s now commonly known as ‘stranger danger’.
There was one public information film that when I watched it on YouTube I could recite it word for word.
That required caution exercised as a child, however, surely can be relaxed a little as we mature into adults?
I was inspired to write this post after sharing a table with a stranger at lunch. The lone stranger eyed me with surprise and then much suspicion when I asked whether I could join them at their 4-person table. Realising my presence was not welcomed I ate as quickly as possible to reduce the discomfort caused. The 10 minutes that I sat opposite they spent carefully rearranging their lunch to ensure they were in their own space and away from me.
When as a human race did we become so disconnected? When I see a physical stranger I don’t want to see danger, I’d rather see someone with friends, family and a personality. I have been described as naïve, maybe rightly so? My tendency is to see the good in people. I choose to believe that the world is made up of 1% danger and 99% goodness and humanity.
On a recent trip to London I put my belief to the test. It wasn’t premeditated, it just happened. Being 6.30am it was very dark and secluded when I arrived at the train station. Just me there, or so I thought. Through the blackness I heard a ‘Good Morning’. Intuition told me that a gentleman (not a serial killer) had offered a polite greeting as he walked past relaxed and casual. Body language is a fantastic gauge as to who, and what, you are dealing with when you cannot make out facial expression.
By the time it got light, and my train had arrived, we’d shared our plans for the day and a little of our history. Recently back from Australia he was intending to meet up with his nephew. He found my explanation that I was headed to a cookery competition rather amusingly – perhaps he’d sampled my cooking in a past life. We didn’t exchange names. Neither did I find out the name of the woman who arrived a little later cold, but dry, as we sat next to one another under the platform shelter. She was venturing into the city for an interior design course and offered great advice on getting the best train fares for the future.
I did however discover the name of the interesting Polish man who took the vacant seat next to me after getting on at one station. Whether that would have been the case had I not instigated a conversation, I’m not sure, but I’m glad I started talking to him. He commented I was the first stranger who’d spoken to him on a train. Chris was a very nice person. Having moved here over ten years ago, I learned a lot about a country that I’m not particularly familiar with. He turned out not to be a serial killer either.
(please note I do not encourage my children to speak to strangers when I am not with them– the motivation of this post is to encourage more adult connection as we are old enough and hopefully wise enough to be vigilant.)
Do you talk to strangers?