Jenna Hoffstadt – Indy Writer
Grocery shopping is never a dull experience for my family. We walk through the aisles of our local supermarket as if it were a carnival. We laugh, smile and crack jokes. When your family is this obnoxious, people tend to notice.
My mom will go up to the meat counter and start a conversation with the butcher as if they were her long lost friend. If it’s a younger guy, my mom will flirt with him and get my sisters and me in on it too.
“Oh, you play in a rock band when you’re not working? My daughter Jenna listens to rock!”
Gee thanks, mom. How did you know my type was college drop out who settled for a job in the meat department of his local supermarket? Regardless, it’s still fun to have a conversation with the employee. This is where my love for meeting new people grew from.
When I realized that every stranger I encounter has their own story, my whole paradigm shifted. Suddenly, I cared about more people other than my family and friends. Every human being has value: from the guy in front of me at Starbucks, to the person who coughs every five seconds in my lecture hall.
Meeting a new person is like opening a new book. You see them and associate their presence with their name. For some people, it stops there, but I go further. I open the book.
Small talk is so awkward but sometimes that’s all people are comfortable with. I have the best conversations when I meet a new person who is willing to disclose personal information.
I volunteer at a food pantry when I’m back home. Over winter break, I helped out with the Christmas Party for the patrons and their children. They immediately put me on the audio/visual crew where I sat at a control booth with a 13 year-old boy. I ran the PowerPoint while the boy watched the sound levels of the music.
We could have just sat there talking about the weather or Christmas, but I asked him what he liked most about the holidays.
“I don’t like the holidays. All my family does is fight. I have to go to the therapist more often.”
This boy poured his heart out to me. He told me his fears of growing up and always facing heartbreak in his household. By opening up to me, I was able to talk things out with him. I told him that he will only be 13 for one year. Eventually he will get to build his own life. Will things at home work out? I pray to God they do. Will he ever be happy? I sure hope so.
This boy, like many of us, is stuck in circumstances we did not get to choose. Sometimes, opening up to a stranger is what we need to see the bigger picture.
I love meeting new people because I get to learn about their lives. They won’t always need help or advice, but they could always use a pair of ears to speak to. At one point in time, I was just like that little boy, exposing my life to a stranger. New people mean new perspectives that expand your paradigms. These experiences are what give me hope in the human domain.