Today, I received a mail from a stranger. A good friend of mine once passed on this quote to me: there is no such thing as strangers, only friends never met. That quote has stayed in my head and today I was reminded of it again.
This stranger stumbled across an article of mine on teaching English in China, and wrote to me. Now, that one article on Transitions Abroad has sent a lot of strangers my way. All of them have remained strangers with the exception of two, who I went on to meet, and whose friendship and warmth I cherish till this day. I know how difficult it is to reach out to another, totally unknown person on the Internet, knowing well that suspicion and neglect are likely the only two companions you are likely to find. I have done that just once in my life – writing a mail to a complete stranger, on a personal basis. But I never had occasion to regret it, as that one mail established a beautiful friendship that continues to this day, despite differences in culture, distance and time. Since then, I have reached out to others on forums, but that has been only to obtain this piece or that piece of information. And the ones who contact me through that China article are usually just the same – they seek something from me that they need. Information. Knowledge. The folly of wisdom.
This mail was no different. This stranger needs the same. But the mail. There was something in that mail that moved me. He wrote unabashedly, without reservation about his life. The accommodation he says he lives in would make a church mouse proud. “My enthusiasm for life has been ebbing away every year, it seems,” he wrote. “I’m an individual whose low ambition and severe gentleness has molded a humble and dissatisfied life. I want to start from the begining, reverse my conditions, and experience what it means to really live.” These lines!! These are the very lines I parrot to myself. “Experience what it means to really live.” How often I have told that to myself. There were lots more to that mail, his longing to visit China, his fascination with the Chinese culture, but I won’t divulge that here. But in the end, he added. “In closing, I have said much to someone I’ve never met.” And I thought to myself. Do we have to meet to meet? This stranger is a vegan, and I am a vegetarian. He loves China just as much as I do. He has the same desire to “really live,” as I do. And the ‘strangest’ thing is not strange at all, really is it not?
My wonderful friends in the U.S., who I mentioned above, whose warmth and friendship I said I cherish, those two are in San Antonio, Texas. And this stranger wrote to me from San Antonio, Texas. Really, there is no such thing as strangers.