I Talk To Strangers, You Should Too!

randi rentz

Long time LBBC blog contributor, RANDI RENTZ, graduated with honors from The Johns Hopkins University with a Masters degree in Special Education. She was an editorial assistant for a publishing company in suburban Washington,DC before becoming a special education teacher in a school district outside Philadelphia, PA. Randi currently is an Asperger’s Support Teacher for grades kindergarten through fifth. Presently, Randi has her own consulting company for children on the Autistic Spectrum where you can see her work at   www.helpforaspergers.com. She is a proud member, supporter, and blogger for many breast cancer organizations and never leaves the house without diamonds. Visit Randi at her web site at www.randirentz.com. Be sure to check out the teaser for her upcoming book “Why Buy a Wig…When You Can Buy Diamonds!”

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Call me crazy, but I look forward to waiting in line, and just about any opportunity to shoot the breeze with people I don’t know. I’m chummy with the guy who pumps my gas, (the only gas station nearby where they still pump gas for you), still exchange holiday cards with my 4th grade elementary school teacher, and the other day I spent a solid hour gabbing with an 81-year old woman I met at the tailor’s while having my pants hemmed.

I’m now a life-long, die-hard people person. I never used to be, though. In fact, I never enjoyed chatty encounters with people I didn’t know…until cancer. I wasn’t hostile before breast cancer.  Every day I had pleasant exchanges with strangers and acquaintances—an enthusiastic “Morning!” or a friendly “Have a great day!”  Such moments continue to be life-affirming, yet, prior to breast cancer, they were blessedly brief.

On-the-fly updates from people I’ve barely met used to drain me. Seriously.  I always felt obliged to respond with genuine emotion, to pay real attention. I would fake outrage or concern, with a performance that was definitely Oscar worthy. That meant stopping whatever I was doing, and force myself to focus. Since my laser-beam concentration was always sensed by the people stopping me, their details got longer and longer. Oy, vey! I felt trapped like a mouse in a maze.

Did breast cancer make me a people person? Well, I think it made me more aware of the little moments in life that make up the big moments. I now enjoy being a true people person—even though I’m inclined to dislike anyone who describes himself/herself this way. Go figure. I digress, sorry. Anyhoo, hear me out. Lifting your head and engaging with whoever happens to be standing next to you is worth the effort. It’s nice to see people smile and to genuinely smile back. It really feels good and refreshing. You should try it.

For one thing, you never know when you will receive priceless advice.  The 81-year-old cautioned me to get in good with my son’s future wife and to always take the dog out for an evening walk to do “its business.” Little did she know, I have no children and own two cats which use a litter-box. Needless to say, I felt it worthy to file away her words of wisdom. Maybe a stepson and a dog are in my future. Who knows? I digress. Sorry. When I left the fitting room, fiddling with the waistband of my pants, she said, “With posture like that, who needs Spanx? Coming from a stooped octogenarian, her words felt like a wake-up call to enjoy my youthful existence.

I believe my world is bigger with my random encounters. My brushes with strangers bring me the thrill of the unexpected, to glimpse a world I used to brush off and otherwise never see or appreciate. In the frenzy of life, with intense money, work and time pressure, I honestly didn’t have much conversational energy to spare.

Now, I think of it as a habit as “meeting new people,” even if I never see them again. My encounters with strangers bring me back to a place where I long to be. I never had grandparents, because they died before I was born.  But now I cherish chance meetings with people of all ages, especially older people. I find their perspective to be rather eye-opening.

Instead of rolling my eyes, I appreciate the interruption. I am so grateful for the little things in life. I now understand what being a warm person means.

And now, onto the Spanx…

6 Responses to “I Talk To Strangers, You Should Too!”

  1. Facing Cancer (@cancer2gether) Says:

    Love this. At the moment I’m in Hungary and the culture isn’t exactly ‘open’ to exchanging with strangers. It’s just so nice to read about your random encounters and chats. It’s just more fun to be a people person :) ~Catherine

  2. rmrentz Says:

    Thanks, Catherine! I find it very liberating and truly love talking to strangers. You never know who you will encounter and the stories that you will hear from others!! I find my chance meetings to be so inspirational! ~ Randi

  3. MaryAnn Pearson Says:

    Thank you Randi!!! I SOOOO identify with your article. I always spoke to strangers, but NOW I do so more and more in depth than ever!!! I also share with some I am a 7 month survivor and talk about what a beautiful day it is to be alive. I find doing this imprints in my own mind how happy I am to still be here and to have these beautiful days!

  4. Alison Says:

    Perfect timing for me reading your blog. I feel the same about enjoying the small moments exchanged between people I meet randomly in the day. Just today I had a special chance meeting at the dentist office. A 100 year old woman from France and I spoke ( partially in French as I used to teach it). She was so full of life and wisdom! She told me to call her Gammy and gave me her number and invited me to come to her house and visit more with her soon. I replied in French that I may feel timid at first but, i will call her next week to set up a visit. Her grandson in law was pleasant but a little taken back by our enthusiasm!

  5. cukrzyca objawy Says:

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  6. jimmy lanzetta Says:

    Very Staement that comes your own experience w/ Cancer has enlightened as to my awareness of the one’s I truly care about, who never loss faith in me in my recovery of another type. I know more of “when to say” and “when not to say” in my closely knit family. I have your blog to thank for that. A little humble advice, Most friends and relatives do not accept change very well. A lot of them expect you to be the person they always knew. They tend to shy away from any difference in a positive attitude over a negative one,b/c It is unexpected and they don’t know how to react. I say change is good if it is positively good for you. Anyway, Thank you for a little peek in the mind set of others, whether it be friends or family. Sincerely, Jimmy L.

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