Stranger. The word itself implies a fear of the unknown. A stranger is not a stranger, but another person we share the experience of life with. They are simply people we don't yet know, and it's hard to feel the presence of trust in the land of the unknown. How can we trust someone that we've never met before?
As children, we're told not to talk to strangers. Mostly because our parents think that we're incapable of realizing a threat when it's presenting itself in the form of candy - which is understandable and probably true. There certainly are people out there that seek to cause harm to the world and our parents care about us. So we're taught to disengage and not fall prey to temptation. Over time, however, I think this causes people to develop a defensive mindset when encountering unfamiliar people in unfamiliar places. They walk around with their guard up just in case, because - well, you never know. What if instead we were taught to welcome everyone's presence with open arms and open eyes? You never know who you're crossing paths with if you don't offer them a shimmer of your own trust first and make yourself a little vulnerable. It's OK to talk to strangers. What's more important is that we're aware and understanding of those we encounter. From there we can make the decision to more deeply explore these people or kindly hightail it out of there.
Think of the finite nature of life for a moment. In 100 years, nearly everyone that's alive on this earth will be dead and gone, and a fresh planet's worth of people will be walking the same streets that we are now. It is postulated that the average person will encounter upwards of 10,000 unique people in their lifetime. That's 10,000+ opportunities to dive into someone else's mind, connect, learn something new, or start a relationship. These people are our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, and everyone is deserving of the most honest representation of ourselves we can offer - regardless of what we get back in return. If you walk the streets with your head down, you're going to miss a lot of beautiful eyes and a lot of potentially interesting experiences.
Don't fear strangers or the unknown. Instead, look at these encounters as windows of opportunity.
No one is a stranger.