“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” ~ Tennessee Williams
I mentioned that I have a new career. I am a political activist for a labor union. My job is to take the message to the people. The message right now is the attack on workers rights in Ohio and around the nation. I’ve spoken to the notion of standing up for all is right and good in this world. And I’ll speak to that again. But this chapter is all about connecting with strangers.
I knock on doors. That’s what I do. This is the third time working in this kind of job. It can be frustrating. Many times I am the last person they want to see at their door. That’s okay. It is my job to get around that. So I use every tool at my disposal to break through that barrier and show them that we are on the same team.
As I walk up to the door I am plugged into the moment. I am observing everything that I can discern about the person who is about to answer the door. I can usually tell if he are an owner or a renter. I know what kind of car he drives, the bumper stickers that she has plastered on it, whether or not she have kids and how old those kids are. When I knock on the door, and I always knock, it is with a playful little ditty like “shave and a haircut.” It makes him wonder whether or not it is a friend at the door. I am her friend. She just doesn’t realize it yet. If he make less than a half million a year, I am sticking up for him.
She answers the door. She could be fifteen or ninety-five. It doesn’t matter to me. My first order of business is to make her smile. Once I crack her armor, she is on my side. Then I explain to him, in very thoughtful and truthful terms, what brings me to his door. I draw out her profession and what issue that she holds nearest to her heart. It could be health care, education, jobs or retirement. It doesn’t matter, I will speak to him of the attack on that which he holds dearest. We will agree or not. She will do what I ask of her or not. In the end, I will walk away from her door leaving her with one thought. That Terry is a good guy. I’m glad he’s on my side.
So that is what I do to make a living. Now I apply it to life. I’ve mentioned that I have been a shut-in. I’ve hidden behind drawn curtains for decades, ruminating in my toxic thoughts. Now I force myself out into public. I go places where I wouldn’t have been caught dead before. I greet each and every passerby with a smile and salutation. I try to make them all smile.
I truly believe that we all have the ability to make a stranger’s day just by giving them one good moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s the bus driver who’s been stuck in a seat for eight hours, the student cramming for the biggest test of his life or the harried server at the Waffle House, they all need one good moment in their day. I am just the guy to give it to them. It costs me nothing. But it pays back in smiles, and smiles are more precious than dollars in this day and age. Smiles are infinitely more valuable.