Finding Hope in Strangers
by Brighton Council
At a time when the world often feels in a state of complete dislocation, even swerving into the realm of anarchy, finding hope and faith in humanity wherever we are able can help us to get up in the morning and keep going each day.
At a community development conference last year, I listened intently to those who have been practicing in this area for many years, eagerly wanting to learn the ‘secrets’ of being an effective practitioner in today’s world, where social injustices and human rights issues have become part of life in a ‘first world’ society, not just the developing or ‘third world’ countries.
It is nearly always the simple things that grab my attention at conferences because of their stand-out from the overwhelming level of information and social interaction that comes your way in such a short space of time. So it was on this warm evening in Queensland, I heard a simple gem of what it means to be human and the amazing impact of simply talking with strangers.
Talking with strangers can spark an immediate sense of connection. These exchanges, however brief, can remind us that we’re part of a community and a larger world. I thought back to times when this has happened and knew exactly what was meant by this. I can remember that feeling well. Michael Leunig wrote about this exact feeling in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald in 2006 called In the Company of Strangers. He reflects on the vitality and hope in the world of those unknown to us, despite as children hearing the many warnings about the perils of talking with strangers.
He writes, “I can think of not many things better than to talk with strangers. The idea of being a stranger is also appealing. Some of my most happy and reassuring moments in recent times have been on street corners, trains, remote beaches and winding paths. A stranger appears, eyes greet eyes and soon two people are discovering something – a missing link, a consoling wisdom, or perhaps just a laugh, a gem or a simple moment of pleasure.”
Leunig finishes this article with his characteristic wisdom on everyday life. “If you’re becoming weary and disillusioned with Australian values or Western civilisation, I recommend strangers – they’re such a glorious, redeeming wilderness to wander into.” And so it is that I share this, just in case some of us, like me, have forgotten the joy and hope that can come from talking with strangers, not to mention some brief relief from loneliness for those who might live alone and crave that sense of belonging.
Angela Turvey, Manager Community Development & Engagement, Brighton Council.