“Strangers” : Assignment 5

“I’ve been amazed on this trip by the stubborn capacity of Americans to help a stranger, even when it seems to run contrary to their own best interests. I think of all the families who take me in. I arrive with nothing but my pack, while they expose their homes, their possessions, their children. As scared as I am to trust them, they must be doubly afraid to trust me. Then again, what might truly frighten them is the idea of not trusting anybody.”

05AReading: Read chapters 17 – 19.

Kind Action: Contact an old friend (someone with whom you’ve lost contact but with whom you’d like to re-connect). This should be a person who, essentially, has become a stranger to your life. After connecting and if it seems appropriate (ideally, it does), tell this person at least three important changes that have happened in your life since you last connected. Do this by phone, email, letter, whatever.

Reflection Exercise: Consider how, at some point in your life, you were either trusted as a stranger or how you trusted someone who was a stranger to you. If you write about this, which I strongly recommend, be as detailed as you can be.

1 Comment

  1. I met a stranger on Fb who is a painter, very verbal, and has tons of acquaintances who are also artists. I befriended him because my daughter had earlier befriended him and having access to her site I often saw his posts. The art he posted and the responses from his acquaintances were so interesting (and my daughter did not respond very often), so I finally broke my tradition of only being Fb friends with family members or my closest friends and asked to him to befriend me, a stranger. After about a year I bought a wonderful print of his which cost us more to frame than it did to buy, but I wanted to support his work even if modestly. We have very little art work in our house – most of which we bought because we knew the artist. Perhaps that influenced me!

    In the interim two plus years, a couple of times we “chatted” on Fb about our commonaities. He is about my age, with some difficult health issues to address as I had at the time. In each instance I asked a couple questions and was plesantly surprised that he was open to a private exchange on CHAT. I do not do that with people I do not know, but maybe I was just comfortable because I knew a lot about him from his Fb posts, although he could know almost nothing from my posts on his artwork. Usually I was praising the paintings he had posted or the articles about other art, but he was trusting me also. His posts were always about his work and not personal.

    In this last few months, he has had a very rough time and has slowly opened up to all his FB friends in his posts about some of his current difficulties as a person and an artist. He trusted us all with what many probably considered very private stuff. He has been facing: reoccuring health issues; his sales have been hurt by the bad economy (a print is $350, but a large painting can be $6000 to $10,000+): and he had a huge increase in his rent so he lost his studio and residence; in short he has been beleagured by major issues. He is back on his feet and in a studio again, but one without natural light which is so important to his art.

    Now, just this week, he has had a crisis which he also posted openly but very briefly about on Fb. He HAS to have insurance on his property in the studio (his paintings mostly) and he does not have the funds. Because he brought it up on his Fb page, I suggested there that perhaps many of his Fb friends might be willing to send small contributions and suggested I would be happy to send $25. After three days and no swell of response to my comment, I chatted with him about the idea. He told me his only rather wealthy family member turned down his request for help. He does not feel comfortable asking his close friends and supporters because they helped him once before several years ago and gifted their help even though he offered to pay back the “loans.” He was very touched by my offer and generosity.

    I reminded him that those who give recieve something as well. When I asked if he would give me premission to send him a check, he did give me his address, but he did not give me permission to try to encourage others to join me in a contribution. After talking to my husband about what I wanted to do, I sent him $150 which was more than I had planned to send, but I could afford to send that much. Irationalized that our plans for today would cost us nearly as much and what we got for that money was a nice meal out, and a viewing of the MET HD Live broadcast of Carmen, plus the pleasure of a nice drive through the country side to the cinema.

    Which gave me the most pleasure? One choice was for to do something nice for myself and my husband. The other was to do somehing for someone else, for someone I admire. I wanted to support him because he was in unusual circumstances and had a pressing need which I could help with.

    Sorry to be so long, but something so apparently simple can be difficult to explain.

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