Connecting With A Stranger

2010 June 23
by Grace Boyle

When you blog, you’re publicly visible and as many fellow bloggers will agree to, it’s not unusual to receive e-mails from readers, fans, haters and those in your community.

I told my friend who recently started blogging to “expect anything,” when it comes to comments and e-mails.

There’s always the funny, odd e-mails like the guy who “fancied small hands,” and wrote me asking for a picture of them (eek, I know) or a kind, genuine e-mail where someone says your stories and writing are helping and inspiring them. Then of course, there’s even the negative or challenger (like when my blog posts were being copied into a column in an International newspaper) who writes to stir things up, which I also appreciate.

Recently, I received an e-mail from a woman thirty years my senior. Her e-mail was earnest and honest – titled, “Advice.”

She found my blog and reached out because she was ready for a new life change, ready to relocate and take a risk in moving away from the comforts of home, on her own. I write frequently about my personal experience regarding relocating, travel and breaking free of conformity. Even still, I’m not an expert – just another person with a story to tell. For some reason, she felt inclined to reach out. So I obliged. I took it as something I should respond to.

Photo Credit

Our lives and current paths couldn’t be more different, but reading through her e-mail touched me…deeply.

I responded, answering her questions, asking her questions and encouraging her to set sail and just go.

We’ve since e-mailed back and forth five times and over the course of a week, she has set motion to move to her desired new home and city. I can already ‘hear’ the change and progress in her e-mails. I probably will never meet her in real life, but she asked if she could continue reaching out and e-mailing me in the future with questions, support and bouncing ideas off each other. I happily agreed. It’s the least I can do.

Strangers often come into our lives. Sometimes they become more than a stranger – maybe your lover, a new relationship, new best friend, confidant or just someone who touched you, wholly, in a place where you want to only give and answer, the best that you can without expecting anything in return.

The latter is where she stirred me up – woman to woman, strangers, but connecting to help, advise and live a life worth living.

Have you ever connected with a stranger, even if it was a small interaction, did it move or change you?

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  • http://www.lauriesteiner.com Laurie Steiner

    I can certainly relate to being moved by a complete stranger…

    The other day, I was checking out at the grocery store and I had the loveliest lady as my cashier. Normally the grocery store cashier isn't happy to be there and wears that loud and clear on his/her face. April was different. You see, this time, I noticed her name. She was smiling, talking to me about my purchases, commenting on how many father's day cards I was buying and asking about my day. I came to find that she has three young children and really wants to be a stay-at-home mom.

    While our lives couldn't be any more different at this point in time, I left the grocery store in such a great mood that I called the grocery store later on to let them know how wonderful of an employee April is. She brightened my day and was spreading smiles all over the place–and we were complete strangers.

  • Dmbosstone

    One of the more popular posts I have written was a rant about women not being interested in Asians like me (http://bit.ly/bDlkjC) I got a lot of responses and even some e-mails that I started some really interesting conversations. I'm really sad that they didn't last as long as I'd like but I didn't expect that post to be as popular as it was.

  • http://www.lifewithoutpants.com Matt Cheuvront

    Two days before my wedding I received an email from a woman I had never met, never conversed with online, through my blog, on Twitter, etc. I still don't know where to find her. In that email she first expressed how much of an impact my writing had on her over the past year – that she had been there witnessing my transitions and evolution.

    She then shared with me advice that I will never forget – I even printed it out – advice on marriage, and on what her wedding day meant to her – advice that she shared with her own daughter about cherishing every single moment of that day – and listed specific things I “had” to do – like writing a note to my parents to give to them that morning expressing my gratitude for everything they had done for me.

    This woman reminded me that the day was all about love – and not just for me – but for everyone else present. People go to your wedding because they love you, but it's also an opportunity for them to rekindle or remember that love they have for each other.

    Powerful stuff – a little sappy coming from me as I type this I suppose. But it's something I'll never forget. It's things like this, something that came from a complete stranger who happens to read my blog – that make doing all of this online stuff VERY much worth it.

    We – you, me, everyone else here reading this – are impacting other people's lives, every single day, without even knowing it.

  • hannahdemilta

    Wonderful post – I'll just say I love looking back at the stories of friends now who first started as those strangers. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Laurie Aw, I love that story Laurie. It's so nice to see how we are touched by people and I think I will always remember those specific strangers that did something small, but still impacted us. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Patrick Isn't it funny, those posts we think will not gain traction often have the biggest voice? Did you find it interesting hearing from strangers about you and your post? Did anyone impact you (positively or negatively?)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Matt That's a very touching story. Blog readers are quite often, anonymous. I have even met people even locally who I've never heard of before and say they have been reading my blog since I started, for two years and I've never heard a peep from them!

    We interact with readers and the community, all differently. Which is why those 'strangers' shouldn't be overlooked.

    I loved what she said to you and I'm sure, you will remember that for your life because it was closely related to your wedding day :) Thanks for sharing this, love it.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Hannah Thank you :) I totally agree – many friends were once strangers and our meeting was serendipitous. Makes life seem splendid and a fun surprise, doesn't it?

  • http://diamondkt.blogspot.com David

    Ha. Ahh yes, Fancy Hands! A creeper that will never be forgotten! Not too many people can top the rather interesting/unusual (or should we say sometimes downright scary) e-mails I get, but you Gracie did it when Fancy Hands came along!

    With the occasional crazy stuff aside, I’ve had some incredible e-mails sent to me as well. People who are so candid about the struggles going on in their life and for whatever reason feel like I’m someone they can talk to or someone who can help. I’m always blow away by that! I mean, why me? I’m a complete stranger. Why would they want to reach out to ME? I’ll never fully understand it, but I feel honored and greatly humbled when someone like that does reach out. And I do the best to help them in any way I can – virtual stranger or not. Besides, you never know where that one electronic communication on some idle Tuesday can lead.

    I think what you did could be sort of classified as a random act of kindness. Here was a woman that found a connection with you just from your writing. A woman that was struggling, looking for guidance and support. More than likely, she already knew the right thing to do was move forward with her plan, but she just needed an extra push to do so. You Gracie provided that extra push in the right direction. And from the sounds of it, you are willing to provide a pair of small hands to catch her should she fall back one day.

  • http://fiwk.blogspot.com Royce

    Well, stranger (yes you), I have occasionally connected with people I don't know, yes. That's actually been one of the nice benefits of blogging. I've connected with a lot of people I knew nothing about before. And most of the time we've found some commonalities which have made our connections really interesting.

    Plus, you have helped us find some really cool music 😉

  • Dmbosstone

    Ya I wasn't used to having complete strangers chime in on something very personal about me. I like to think all the support and stories really helped me feel better about my thoughts.

  • Jacqueline Soboti

    you were the best stranger i met this year!! can't wait to be your roomie! :)

  • FromTracie

    I love this. I have found blogging to be so much about the relationships.

  • http://twitter.com/ElleLaMode Ellen Nordahl

    When I was in second grade, I met a couple from Turkey while at the Washington Monument. I remember being completely fascinated by their culture and stories, and I was sad to see them go. As luck would have it, I ran into them again 2 days later at Mount Vernon. Apparently they thought I was a rather charming and precocious 8 year old, and I corresponded with them (snail mail style) for a few years. It goes to show that you never know who you might meet just standing in line – and with the internet, at least you can get a sense for who that person is and what they're all about (well, at least if they're a fellow blogger) before you take the initial plunge and put yourself out there.

    When I first started blogging, I wrote a “thank you” post to Rebecca from Modite – her blog was one of the few (including yours) that really inspired me to put my thoughts into words. I initially worried that I was going to freak her out with my outpouring of flattery, but she was so gracious and welcoming – it made it so much easier for me to reach out to others having had that one positive experience. I think that you're a natural person for people to reach out to because you're such a candid and honest writer – your words really resonate with people. I know they hit home for me when I was feeling unsettled and longed for a change.

    I've done a terrible job of staying in touch with those I've connected with online through blogging as of late, but now that I'm adjusting to my new schedule, it's going back into the top 3 of my “to do” list.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @David It is sort of like a random act of kindness, isn't it? It felt good for me, just because it was natural – we were both being ourselves and just seeing what the other had to say.

    Thanks for sharing and of course, supporting during Fancy Hands 😉

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Royce You're totally right, probably every single person who commented here was once a stranger (very few IRL friends comment on my blog, ha!) so I appreciate the support, the connections and all the meaningful friendships I've made online as well. Thanks for bring that to my attention.

    And I love bringing music to FIWK!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Jackie AWW, yay, can't wait either. Our story is a great one :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @FromTracie Blogging is very much about the relationships. I got my job through blogging, met my boyfriend and even my closest friends. A lot of connections, right? Thanks for stopping by Tracie!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Ellen I love your story from when you were 8. It's very touching and the random acts of kindness with/through a stranger, never ceases to amaze me. I live for those moments, much like my Six Degrees of Separation post: http://smallhandsbigideas.com/inspiration/six-d

    Thank you for your kind words about my blog. I try to be myself and speak with candor and honesty…if nothing else.

    If you don't realize this already, your writing is honest, raw and I always relate. You're one of my favorite bloggers. So please don't stop :)

  • LostInCheeseland

    How lovely that you were able to potentially play a role in a significant change in this woman's life!
    Everytime I fly from Philly to Paris or Paris to Philly, I connect with someone. Sometimes the conversation continues even after the flight and sometimes it doesn't. But one such interaction turned into a valuable friendship – someone who eventually became one of the witnesses at my wedding (equivalent of a bridesmaid). I met her at a pivotal point in my life where I was trying to figure out who I was, where I was going and how I was getting there and I'm grateful that she decided to come up to me in the waiting area at the Philly airport to tell me she liked my shoes.

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  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

    I love when random blog and column readers reach out to me. Beyond the extreme honor I feel that they would invite me into their minds and lives like many do, I just love “meeting” new people.

    It's an interesting and funny phenomenon, the things we'll share with a relative (or complete) stranger that we couldn't share with anyone close to us. Somehow feeling that our ideas and feelings will be shunned or “not good enough” for them, but feeling an ache and desire to do them anyways. And then finding someone who inspires you or whom you feel a kindred connection…well that's just an opportunity that you have to take ahold of and work to cultivate.

    It's funny, this is part of my current writers block. A year ago I began writing with veritable anonymity as I was meeting all these *new* people through my blogging but most of my *old* friends had no idea. Now that I know just how many of them read my stuff…well…it's a lot harder to write about what I want knowing they know *just enough* of the story to put it all together!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Lindsey That's a beautiful story – I love that. You can always know if you're on a certain path (e.g. flight to specific cities) and someone is along the way with you, there's some sort of connection building up there. It's great the way life unfolds, make me happy and content and all smiles :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    @Elisa You bring up such a good point, one that I never realized but think into my second year of blogging that now IRL friends and family actually read my blog, whereas before, they didn't.

    I was actually at a family reunion this weekend when I read your comment on my phone and I had so many aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all come up to me and tell me about my blog. I was a little shy at first, but then realized, “Yes, Grace it's a public blog. What do you expect?” In the end, we have to write as we want to write. I don't want to hurt people along the way, but it's not really perfect. I have learned to let go a little bit about what people might think because we both know, we're judged anyway. So those who love us will always love us and those that don't, well…they don't matter anyway.

  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

    Well I'll always love ya no matter what, so you can count at least *one* in that camp. :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Aw, you just made me smile :) thanks dear! Right back atchya.

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  • Willow

    Hmmm… Here I sit. In the middle of NowHere – up in the mountains of Canada. 
    I have been here for about 8 years, building a new life. I met my wife 12 years ago, and decided to surrender EVERYTHING to be with her. I had a great job, a slew of lovers, an amazing loft in the heart of downtown Vancouver, and yet, I felt inspired to let it all go to be with this amazing woman. She is the strongest, most driven, capable, talented, creative, multifaceted human I’ve ever met.Will Chapman That said, we’ve been together almost every hour since the day we met. We have built magnificent home – a sculpture really, up on 10 acres of land. The whole house was built almost entirely by my wife and myself: plumbing, electrical, concrete, framing…

    It’s been quite an adventure.

    From our house, we don’t see another house, a road – nothing.

    Big ass garden, gravity fed water, an amazing existence.
    We dedicate time every morning to mediation, do yoga a few times a week.

    All that said, I am an Aquarian. I love my freedom, and to connect with new people.

    I thought I’d do some random surfing – use this crazy tech-tool which is both healing and ruining the planet, to just put it out there – make an effort to reach out and connect with someone, somewhere, in hopes that there is something to share which can enrich unexpectedly.

    Great to be surprised by life, technology and welcome the unexpected.

    If someone feels inclined to share something – I’m open.