Sunday, February 19, 2006

Can you turn strangers into friends?

"God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference."
- Anonymous parody of prayer by St. Francis of Assisi

Despite the parody, let's examine the "prayer" for truth. It's not a sacrilege.

We don't need to like everyone. We don't need everyone to like us. Those who try to make everyone like them fail, inevitably.

We need to tolerate and be passably friendly with everyone. However, some people will not respond in kind, no matter how hard we try. So forget them. Pretend they don't exist. Why sweat for people who don't deserve it?

We don't have the good fortune to run into people we do like often enough. We need to stop and take advantage of those times we do. And we need to go out of our way to visit with them when we can. These are people who we would miss if they died, so we shouldn't miss spending time with them when they are alive.

Maybe we don't really need eyesight to tell the difference. Maybe we need the social skills to turn strangers into friends. Such skills are seldom taught, yet they are very important to every one of us. Some never learn them.

Be friendly with people you encounter. Smile and say something nice. When the opportunity arises, do small favours for them. When they realize that you are sincere, they will come around and be friendly.

Remember, some people feel so betrayed by others that they no longer believe that true friendship is possible.

Prove them wrong. It's worth the investment.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to re-establish and teach the skills for making strangers into friends.
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