Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why strangers are awesome

As my dear friend Sharon can tell you, the number one rule we learn as children is; "Don't take candy from strangers." I remember my mother digging through my Halloween candy to make sure there weren't razor blades in my Snickers or evidence of my 3 Musketeers being tampered with. I mean there's a whole campaign about "Stranger Danger." Certainly, these are precautions we should all take, but to children, the world begins to seem like a scary place before they reach elementary school.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not slamming teaching children lifelong skills to keep themselves safe. At my preschool, we watch "Be Cool About Fire Safety" at least once a month and our kids sing "you gotta stop, drop and roll" on a regular basis. This is all good information.

But lets fast-forward a few years beyond pre-school and open the window into the "adult world." Once we have all these lessons instilled into our brains, it's time to open up to each other. I'm not suggesting jumping in to that sketchy van parked on the corner (especially if it's owned by Josh Ard) but I am suggesting we open our eyes to the people we pass by everyday.

I guess as a waitress, I'm used to talking to strangers. Not to mention, I'm a pretty trusting, social person. Every time I run errands, I end up chatting with the gas station attendant or the sales clerk at Hannaford. I thoroughly enjoy speaking with people - I guess why I leaned toward journalism in college.

Strangers have the ability to make your day. Some random guy might give you a glance. Some woman might comment on your new sweater at Best Buy. (Whoever you are random lady, I'm still smiling about our 5 minute talk about my sweater. I love it too.) Some table might leave you a 75 percent tip. An older lady may tell you you look like a ballerina - a common remark in my life for some reason.

I try to be that stranger in return. I love starting small-talk. I like giving out small comments.

All of these small things might not mean that much, and if someone you see everyday says it, it's probably just a passing remark in a slew of conversations you've had. But when someone takes the time to seek you out and start a repertoire, the conversation feels meaningful.

There's so much to learn about people. The old man at the gas station may have some really cool life stories. The 4-year-old in line behind you at Wal-Mart may have some awesome joke you want to tell all your friends. If we take the time to initiate these conversations, the world seems a little less scary.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Groundhog Day is my favorite holiday

I had a hard time believing Punxsutawney Phil predicted a quick spring today while I shoveled out my car from underneath a fresh eight inches of snow. As my dad concluded, we'd been hit by "Snowtorious B.I.G."

But I really don't mind the snow ... and that's not even the point of this blog. Let's get back to Phil.

I love him.

Groundhog Day seems like such a pointless holiday, if you can even call it a holiday, but that's why I love it. It's a little silliness in the deep, dark of winter. I mean come on, a group of old men in top-hats (who call themselves "The Inner Circle") pull a fat, buck-toothed rodent out of a hole to see if he sees his shadow. Not to mention, little Phil is 125 years old and drinks a magical potion that adds  seven years to his life every year.

As you can tell, I've been doing my research about Groundhog Day. It actually stems from the German tradition of Candlemas and started with a hedgehog. The celebration even has its own website. Here are a few holiday facts:

  • There are more than a dozen groundhog celebrations across the U.S. and Canada. Phil is just the most famous. (I wonder if all their shadows concur?)
  • Nearly 40,000 people flock to Punxsutawaney to join the celebration every year.
  • Phil speaks "Groundhogese"

So why do I love all this craziness? Because it's crazy, duh! But for cereal, I love Groundhog Day because it's a nice break in the cold, dark winter. It gives us hope we'll see the sun and grass again. It's a break that everyone needs, which is why its been such a longstanding tradition. It brings us back to ties when nature was an important part of survival Not to mention groundhogs are pretty cute.

I also appreciate the "holiday" because it's not tied up in commercial garble. It's all about people coming together to watch a furry little creature. I like people. I like furry little creatures. Done deal.