As I headed out for my morning walk today I walked past a mother with two toddlers. One was in his pushchair and as I walked past he kept shouting ‘Hiya’ to me. I turned round and waved to him and his little voice kept chirping out ‘Hi’ as I walked into the distance.
I was aware that his mother didn’t reprimand him and that it was mutually considered to be cute and acceptable. This led me to wondering at what age children are taught not to talk to strangers. Although I understand the reason behind this advice to young people (health and safety!) it also saddens me that we live in a society where this is the norm.
It seems that the instruction ‘to not talk to strangers’ comes from a place of fear. When we tell our children this we are communicating to them that the world is not a safe place to be. It seems to reinforce the belief that we are not all connected and that other humans are not to be trusted and that they might cause you harm. What would society look like if this fear-based belief did not underpin the way young people enter into society independently?
I am fully aware that there are people in the world who are ignorant, unwell and are not to be trusted but to believe that there are so many untrustworthy people out there, that just to be on the safe side it is better not to talk to anyone, seems a bit bizarre. Just imagine how many beautiful encounters may be missed by integrating this fear-based belief and carrying it into adulthood and then passing it on to our children.
I find myself talking to strangers more and more these days because I know that we are all connected and if I can offer a little kindness, a little of my time and presence to someone then I feel nourished and in alignment with who I really am.
I believe that the toddler I met this morning was also in alignment with the truth that we are all connected and there is nothing really to fear. Some may call it ignorance but I call it innocence. And I believe that the new world that is arising as the old falls apart will be one where the word ‘stranger’ becomes obsolete.
I just hope that my toddler friend can hold onto his innocence and innate knowing before it becomes too heavily blanketed by fear.