My mother taught me never to talk to strangers. She said NOTHING about holding hands with them.

I held hands with a Stranger today and I think it may have changed my life.

It’s early morning at the gym. Before my coffee. Before my makeup. Before my ritualistic first ten minutes of Regis and Kelly. I am sweating out a set of intervals on the elliptical, resisting the urge to belt out Bohemian Rhapsody and turn my 8a.m. gym call into an episode of Glee. The incline shifts just as I am getting into Brian May’s epic guitar solo and I am thrown off balance. I clutch onto the elliptical, my heart shuffles to find its bearing and I realize (after a solid five seconds or so) that I am not holding onto the elliptical. My right hand is clutching the hand of the Man next to me.

He looks as though he is probably a grandfather. He wears a white tee shirt and a cheerful demeanor. And he is staring at me. Laughing.

I am only an hour into the day and I already have given myself the recommended daily intake of embarrassment in a 5-second stretch. As I am scrambling to make words fall out of my mouth to apologize to this stranger, who now clearly knows that my palms sweat when I work out, I find I am continuing to fuel his laughter. His Smile Grows Wider. He Is Tickled Over The Hilarity That Is This Moment.

“That was the best hand I have held in a long time,” he says to me.

And maybe I should be creeped out? Probably some of you are reading this and thinking “that is very creepy, Hannah.” But I started to laugh with the Man for a few brief moments. The laughing feels almost foreign to me. As if I have not laughed in weeks. As if I have needed this great laugh for a while now.

After the brief bout of laughter subsides, I realize that he and I have unintentionally bridged a connection. We have crossed the River that is called Strangers. And I think we are better because of it.

Every single day we cross paths with dozens of people who are Strangers. We know nothing about them. We don’t know how they take their coffee or what propels them to wake up each day. We could be standing next to them in the supermarket and we don’t know who they are making dinner for tonight. Who is not showing up to their table, even though they are praying they will. If They Are Eating Alone Tonight.

We are all Strangers. Perhaps not in our houses or at our place of work, but the second Someone walks in with an unfamiliar set of dimples and a walk and talk have never been introduced to before we are slipped right back into our spot as Strangers. Designated Strangers.

As I am making my way up to the eighth interval I still thinking about that Stranger that I had just held hands with. He has wiped off the machine next to me and moved on in life, but I am still running the interaction through my head. Wondering if he is married. If he met the love of his life. If he was happy in his occupation. If he is happy. All because he laughed and I laughed and we basked in the commonality.

You see, we really don’t know enough about Strangers to judge them. We waste so much time carving out our enemies and the people “we don’t like” long before (or if ever) we open our mouths to talk to them. To ask them about their day. To help them work the machine next to us, or pick out a birthday card. But everyone we have ever known came tumbling into our lives with the title of Stranger. And for reasons we cannot always remember, we started a conversation. An interaction. A Friendly Gesture. And We Shattered The Word “Strangers” Into Pieces.

We. Shattered. The. Word. Strangers. Into. Pieces.

I think we are so absorbed with being Strangers that it hinders us. It keeps us from stretching out our palm for a hand shake or asking for a opinion. We tote our Stranger stigmas and we miss out on a great deal of people with the potential to Shake Our Souls, Push Our Limits, Plant An Idea In Our Head That Won’t Soon Go Away.It keeps us from fully relating to one another, from being there for one another even if we haven’t known a person all of our lives.

Life is too short to not take up those smiles that say “I know how you feel right now,” pearls of wisdom, and helping hands; even if they are the smiles, pearls and hands of strangers.

So this is a posed challenge for all of us, to talk to Strangers. Perhaps not in dark alleys or at the Shell station at 10p.m. But I figure: We have nothing to lose and a world of knowledge to gain from people we don’t yet know. We may be from very different walks of life, but for a fleeting second, five minutes or a good chunk of our time, we might decide to walk together. And we might be better for that.

And to that man, next to me this morning, who “saved my life” by keeping me balanced and provided me with the laughter I didn’t know I needed: Thank you. Your hand is the best one that I have held in a long time too.

55 thoughts on “My mother taught me never to talk to strangers. She said NOTHING about holding hands with them.

  1. The Wrong Trousers (Their album at CDBaby) have a song called “City” that says this of strangers:
    “…each passerby is another love lost to the crowd that you pass every day…”

    That line has always struck me, and given your story here, I think they’re onto something there. Outside the shell of our own personal space lies a vast and colorful canvas, but we’re often to scared to look at it. At least, I know I am. It’s too easy to keep oneself back, but I think I may take your challenge. Maybe I’ll try striking up a conversation with a stranger. Maybe I’ll learn something!

    1. Ok 1) Your comment went into spam and I am not sure why, but I am so very glad to have uncovered it.. And 2) That line is absolutely stunning.. I think it may be in my head for a very long while as well.. It is really true, and overwhelming at the same time. I hope you do strike up a conversation, I dare say there is nothing to lose.


      Hannah Katy

  2. Oh my gosh, that was so sweet! And it’s so true. We’re all so carefully contained in our own personal bubbles that we really do miss out sometimes.

    1. Oh jeepers, it frightens me to think about the two of them getting together and having me ha ha but thank you, that is a really great compliment.

      Funny you say that, I was raised on the teachings of Mother Teresa, we have about every book ever written about the woman. She is definitely my biggest role model, besides my mother.


      Hannah Katy

  3. LOVED this!!! Awwww and it was so fitting I read this today – this is going to be my WEEK of strangers! I am hopefully meeting a local penpal I’ve had for a little while “in the flesh” this weekend, and next week meeting a group of internet strangers who live in the city and meetup monthly to talk about their creative projects. I’m working on crossing the bridges with strangers and hopefully turning them into friends 🙂

    1. Very cool Emily. You have a penpal!? I want one! Ha ha. I am hoping to build some bridges very shortly too, I figure, why not? And one day you and I will be meeting up, I am sure of it.


      Hannah Katy

  4. That is so sweet! It’s not creepy if you think about it as he was helping you from falling, which is how I read it. I’ve had some pretty crazy elliptical experiences with strangers, and trust me, this is a GOOD one.

    1. Thanks Michelle ha ha I was freaking out in my head after I published it, thinking, “oh gosh, these people are going to think I am crazy.” Thanks for convincing me that I am not.


      Hannah Katy

  5. love this!! i often wonder these same things about the so-called strangers i encounter daily – and now i wonder if they ever think the same things about me. crazy.

  6. Hannah,
    This story is full of such kindheartedness, and I couldn’t agree with you more! I ran in quite a few strangers while in Sicily this past week, and the experiences I had interacting with them is something that I will never forget, and helped to shape me. Miss you tons, but will be seeing you very soon!

    1. Ah can I please hear more about it?! I love those kinds of interactions. I cannot wait to see you Jill. Hope your travels are filling your heart and soul love.


      Hannah Katy

  7. aww… cute story. Yeah maybe embarassing for all of 2 seconds, but I love the whole “best hand I’ve held in awhile” thing. 🙂 Lovely!

  8. Hannah, what a beautiful blog post. The richness of your words and the way you conveyed the situation was absolutely wonderful. You stopped over to my blog earlier, though I’m not 100% sure how you found me, I’d like to thank you for that.

    And also, in honor of your post, I’ll share a tid-bit of a resent event in my 4 and 1/2 yr olds life.

    He went to a kindergarten observation a few weeks back and the teachers asked him, “what you do when a stranger comes up to you?”

    He said, “talk to them.” 🙂


    All the best,

    1. Ha! That is too sweet. Looks like your four year old and I would get along great. I found you through Lucille, I noticed that you and I both received the award from her and I always love crossing paths with talented bloggers.

      Thank you very much.


      Hannah Katy

  9. This is such a sweet, and touching post. It’s crazy to think about how all the important people in our life once started out as strangers. Any stranger could someday be someone important to us.

    I’m so glad you stopped by my blog because I then came over here and got to read your amazing post and wonderful writing style. I can’t wait to hear more great things from you 🙂

  10. What a sweet, beautifully written story. Isn’t it nice to connect with a stranger? Discovering all the good people out there makes me feel more optimistic about this world.

    1. Very true, Lucy, very true. When I have little experiences like this one it puts things into perspective and reminds me that there is a lot of good in this world.


      Hannah Katy

  11. This is great Hannah! So inspiring. I agree, its sad actually. And some people are quite rude. In stores, I always make it a point to thank them, or wish them a great day over thanking them for the wish of mine. A little comment makes a huge difference to a stranger. Sometimes, most times, strangers are the best. This man does not sound creepy, he sounds lovable:)

    Have a great day, Hannah!

    1. I love love love just jumping into a random convo. with strangers. There was one time I was shopping (I will never forget it) and it was midnight right after Thanksgiving when all the stores open up with crazy sales, and I was in line with this woman and it was like we had known each other for years. We were laughing, chatting, giving each other fashion advice. And that was when I knew there are some good strangers/potential friends all around me.

      Glad you liked the post.


      Hannah Katy

  12. this is so fitting for me. today on the train to the city i sat with a stranger and talked with him for the entire 2 hour train ride. it was actually really nice. i dont know if i will ever see this man again, but it was interesting to engage in conversation with him.

    1. That is too cool, Laura. I think sometimes those are the best interactions… the ones that slip into our lives when we are not expecting them and then tip toe out, leaving a quiet impact.

      I am glad you got to talk with him!


      Hannah Katy

  13. I just wrote out a comment and forgot my email. Whoops. Back to square one…

    There is nothing better than enjoying a good laugh with a total stranger, let alone holding their hand! It’s amazing how something so trivial can turn into something so enthralling.

    When I serve tables at work, I thoroughly enjoy getting to interact with the people there. You can learn so much about someone in the 45-60 minutes that they spend dining with you.

    I wish that I could write journals for a living about “Watching Strangers”. It would be the best job ever!!

    Nonetheless, I am very excited that you found me on Blogger, because I love love love your blog! Looking forward to following your posts.


    1. I am very happy to have found you as well. And that would be a very sweet job, to just write about strangers or maybe get paid to talk to strangers?? Ha ha, maybe that is a little too far. I used to wait tables as well and I adored talking with the family’s and establishing a mini connection with them.


      Hannah Katy

  14. Cute story, and good lesson. We usually go through life trying to avoid contact with strangers, when sometimes we actually need it to help us get through.

  15. My grandpa is the type of guy who can strike up a conversation with anyone and learn their life story in 5 minutes. Me? Not so much. I can be so shy that talking to strangers turns me off. But every time a stranger has struck up a conversation with me, I walk away happy. So I’m taking on this challenge and hoping to see strangers in a new light! 🙂

    (Also? SO happy to see Courtney reads your blog now. She’s one of my favorites!!)

    1. Ha ha I think I would like your grandfather.. I am very much like him.. I love to talk to people that I don’t know, especially love hearing people talk about what fires them up, what makes them passionate. You get out there and talk to strangers.. NOW! Ha ha.


      Hannah Katy

  16. I like! It is so true. The world is much smaller than we would like to think; and maybe if we knew the names of the strangers in our lives there would be less violence and anger in the world.

    Pay if forward 🙂

    1. Yes Lissa, if we could all just band together instead of picking sides and enemies… Love a good pay it forward movement.

      Glad you came by!


      Hannah Katy

  17. “We waste so much time carving out our enemies and the people “we don’t like” long before (or if ever) we open our mouths to talk to them.”

    ^^ This is so true. I find myself surrounded by quite a few people I don’t necessarily like. I think the reason why I don’t like them is because I don’t know them — because I never gave them a chance, I just took judgment and assumed that they weren’t good people.

    I don’t think I want to know how many people do this/think this about me.

    This is beautiful, love.


    1. I am guilty of the very same thing.. Hard not to judge books by their cover, in every sense of that meaning.. Something I think we could all get a little better at.

      Thank you!


      Hannah Katy

  18. As a teacher, I really do believe what you have said here is true. Each year, approx 200 or so “strangers” walk into my classroom (I teach 7 classes) and I have to make an instant connection with them. Sure, the connection deepens over the course of the year, but that first day is always difficult and also thrilling.

    1. That is so awesome Cammy! Isn’t that wild how you can start out with so many new faces and then little by little you know them all so well. Oh I love it!

      Thank you for sharing.


      Hannah Katy

  19. Awww, that is so sweet. And the way you tell the story makes it even sweeter!

    It’s so true – we so often blast past strangers without a second glance or care, forgetting that they have there own problems and life. And who knows how lonely someone might be when they try to make small talk with you! I admit that sometimes I am rushed and snotty to strangers who try to talk to me but for the most part I do try to be polite and make small talk back. You just never know!

    Great post!

  20. ash – oh my gosh. another amazing post. seriously if all your posts are like this, i might have a lot of catching up to do. i’m glad you weren’t creeped out. there’s a time and place to not hold hands with strangers, but it’s also nice sometimes to hold hands and realize we’re all human. we all have stories to share – stories that we want to share if someone is willing to listen. every once in awhile i’ll think about my friends and remember when they were “strangers.” makes me wonder how we ever really make that leap. so often it’s not conscious. one minute they are strangers and the next we can’t imagine life without them.

    1. I wonder about the same thing sometimes. Some of the people I can vividly remember the leap or just being like, “you know what, that person seems wicked cool, I am just going to talk to them” And it has led me to some really great individuals.


      Hannah Katy

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