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There Are No Strangers Here, Only Friends You Haven’t Met

This famous quote, which belongs to William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, came to mind the other day while I was at the post office, standing in line. My local postal outlet is in a pharmacy, and I am often there, sending packages, photocopying, or buying stamps. As usual, there was a line of customers and I found myself talking to strangers. A stranger is defined by some as ‘a person with whom one has had no personal acquaintance’.

One of those in line was a lovely man, a retired history teacher from Ontario, who took a moment to share some history with me (once a teacher, always a teacher). He showed me a Canadian 25 cent bill, yes, a 25 cent bill, from 1900, very cool! He had found it amongst his mother-in-law’s belongings when he was cleaning out her home during a move. He was so very pleased that it had not been lost, and when I suggested that it might be of value and should be kept in a safe place, he shook his head and told me that he wanted to share it with as many people as possible, so they too could enjoy and learn, and I was so glad he had. He then showed me an old 50 Deutshe Mark bill and we talked about what that would have bought way back when, and how times changed for Germany during the war years.

He went on to tell me about his children, how he met his wife, and about the fabulous holiday he was about to embark on to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. Having just celebrated my 30th (just kids!), we discovered that we were both going to the same part of the world to party, to New Zealand. He had his whole itinerary in his hands, a map of the voyage he was taking by ship and he shared his plans and his enthusiasm with me. We chatted about raising a family, what we believed in, and our love and belief in the power of travel, to teach children about life; a different kind of education. After 25 minutes of chatting, we parted ways; he moved on the stationary store, I stayed to photocopy a recipe from a friend.

I feel so lucky to have spent some time in his company, with this man whose name I didn’t even know. And somewhere during my time with this stranger, I thought about what Yeats had said, and began to think of this stranger as a friend, sometimes defined as ‘a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard’. So I think I agree with Yeats, and as far as I am concerned, the definition of a stranger and a friend, today, are both the same – ‘the guy I met at the post office’.

We are all part of one community, one world, one planet earth – talk to someone new today!

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