Learning Languages to Greet Strangers in the Street: Empathy or Insanity?

   R.  Nachman of Bratslav said that “The whole world is a very narrow bridge.”   If so, then maybe that explains why people tell us not to talk to strangers.  I am still glad, though, that I smiled at someone I did not know -who thanked me, and made me grateful to be alive, back in 2005. And even more recently.

Less short version of the story:
When I lived in Izmir, that summer I took long walks on Saturday afternoons. I had the habit of smiling, or at least nodding, to every person I saw because frankly, I hoped someone would smile or nod back at me. At least acknowledge me as a fellow human being, as I tried to do, even passing the homeless people lining the streets as you go into the Metro (in DC).

So, I nodded at a lady in passing, never met her, just kept going because I was too tired to say Gunaydin (Good Morning/afternoon in Turkish), and my Turkish was only rudimentary any way.

Then I heard a call behind me. I turned to see that woman walking back toward me, and her eyes were glistening.
She put her hand on my chest, nothing scary, nothing sexual, just an ordinary safe contact, and said, in very simple Turkish that was clear and slow, that in five years in Izmir, no one had ever greeted her. She thanked me, and I nodded in return, too moved to get out even one word of Turkish. We both turned and went our own ways. And now, over ten years later, I am glad that I smiled at a random person whom I had never met, and never saw again.
I hope that I can share that joy with …    Everyone.


1.)   Consider:  Do you, personally, greet, or don’t greet, people you do not know?  How did you feel about strangers greeting you?

2.)  How do you think this appears, from the other person’s point of view?

3.)  What do you think about the idea of greeting everyone, stranger or not, and why? 

orig. posted  in September, 12020 HE


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Creative Commons License
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

10 thoughts on “Learning Languages to Greet Strangers in the Street: Empathy or Insanity?

  1. Lovely post.
    Upon moving from a town here in UK to a smaller community I loved that people I didn’t know greeted me and smiled. After 42 years it’s now nothing unusual. Eye contact is important for me. If that is avoided I wouldn’t greet if I didn’t know them.

    Liked by 2 people

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