Fears of Strangers

I had to write a blog about this. I saw this headline and felt it belonged on The Onion. An actual major news website reported a story about someone at a Starbucks being creeped out by a stranger sitting next to him when the rest of the store was empty. Nothing sexual, violent, or even verbal was exchanged between them. Two people sitting silently next to one another at a coffee shop is national news? It’s a bit awkward to sit next to someone in an otherwise empty coffee shop but as long as any potential conversion doesn’t get too inappropriate or personal, it’s not a boundary violation. If a convseration had transpired, it is just greeting someone and making small talk which some people don’t like and they can say that to the person. If you don’t want to talk or you want more space than a single seat, you can just tell them.

I was reported to a bouncer and kicked out of a Mexican place for a similiar reason. They were members of YoungLife at the College of Charleston and I discovered after brief small talk we knew some of the same church people so I discussed my attempts to form disability-oriented small groups. They told management that was creepy and had me thrown out. I didn’t know them but we had mutual connections and I was actually discussing a matter deeper than small talk, namely, disability-oriented small groups. If a nonthreatening, nonsexual, conversation about a special needs ministry with a stranger one has mutual connections with is too disturbing, one is a pathetic disgrace to a religion whose members faced the appitites of lions. That degree of courage is truly abyssmal. They didn’t ask or tell me to leave, they told me nothing and went straight to management.

The great question I have is what is their teleology? What is the humanity the boundary campaigners want? The emphasis on boundaries is a bit absurd. I would never start a platonic friendship telling the other person how they may creep me out and how to not trigger me. What I try to do in starting conversations is be warm, friendly, and gracious. To be liberal in my tolerance and conservative in my judgments. If they do something that weirds me out or makes me uncomfortable, they’re a guest in my personal space and thus I make room for their personality at the expense of my comfort. I go in with testicles and grace; not cowardice and the threat of a restraining order. It’s the golden rule, I want to be accepted and loved when I’m broken and I ergo must extend the same grace to others.

To the first paragraph, if a stranger sits next to me at a Starbucks and there is no one else in the shop. Yeah, it’d weird me out a little but my first thought would be “this is uncommon, this guy probably needs an ear to vent to or a shoulder to cry into” and while I probably wouldn’t want to, I’d give them that because to do otherwise would be moral cowardice. You can have a soft heart or soft skin; you cannot have both. You can’t love the human family and be terrified of strangers because opening your arms to people requires the courage to take the risk. The worst they can do is kill me and after that I’d have nothing to fear. Returning to the top, the fact this was considered a newsworthy story is another problem. Someone’s neurons firing actually thought they should publish that as opposed to genocides, wars, natural disasters, scientific breakthroughs, daring rescues, and more.

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