This is a guest post from Robbie Stokes, Jr., a global social movement founder and executive director of global nonprofit I Talk to Strangers Foundation.
What is the world? Well that question is very hard to answer because there are so many opinions of what things are. But what if the question could be answered with 4 words? I TALK TO STRANGERS.
We are all people of this world made from the same genetic makeup. We breathe, eat, feel emotions, and live in a balanced daily life. But what if there was a variant. Something that really turn signals from together to separate. So enters what is different.
Different is what makes us afraid. Different is what makes as cautious. We don’t like change and we are creatures of habit. When you make subtle changes like, gender, race, language, background. Things now get scary. We don’t know how to react, we don’t know how adjust so we group.
We group into what is familiar, and what is comfortable. And you defend and protect the group through emotional or physical means. So now you create these circles within circles of people protecting, defending, and feeling comfort within these groups, but forgetting the biggest factor of all. We are all the same. So we rarely venture out.
When I discovered this truth in 2009 I met a retired military Lt. Colonel name Ken Baskett at a fraternity convention in New Orleans. He was 69 and I was 23 and after a conversation at a bar he invited me to his home in Atlanta if I was ever in town. Crazy thing is that I went spur of the moment and changed my flight back to college and had a great time. Basically, I started an idea of what if we crossed into each other circles through kindness. What if I could walk up to someone not like me and say hello. Yes, I may scare them or make them guarded but if my next reaction is a smile or a friendly gesture then maybe we can possibly become friends. I naturally understand the critics of parents not feeling comfortable, but again, why do we have to take things to the extreme. Why can’t kids talk to each other in the classroom. They do it anyway. But something happened when we were up. The world became scary and unfair and we lost interest and hope in making genuine new friends.
Maybe, We can possibly talk past ones social, physical, or emotional barriers and really open up about who someone truly is. Once I started doing this more consciously and making real friends I knew I could change the world. Because I saw that everyone in the world just needed a good conversation from someone new.
So I sold everything and backpacked around the world with nothing more than hope, that I could travel around the world and meet total strangers and have a great time. And I did. And I created a social stir about how did a Young African American male leave a prominent job in DC to backpack around the world and talk to strangers and make it back to the US in 4 months?
So, that is how the movement was started. Now we are a social movement and alliance that is banding with like-minded individuals to create some real change in the world. As a not-for-profit, we work with corporations, organizations, and governments to bring this new social norm that the world is not scary and we can learn to talk to each other again.
Check out the free release of Part I of the ITTS Documentary and look out for the full release touring the world starting this summer.
This is our time, this is our world. Let’s bring the world together, one stranger at a time.