It's true. I talk to strangers. All the time. And that's funny, because I am not at all outgoing. But I have learned that sometimes a stranger can tell you things about himself or about a place that will fascinate and enlighten. Most of my friends were former strangers. That includes my husband. Think about it.
We warn our children not to talk to strangers, and I even recall a song or maybe a PSA about stranger danger when I was a kid. There are books to teach children about strangers. But we'd pick up hitchhikers (before it became illegal; or while in Canada or Mexico), or chat with strangers in the park along with my parents. That is they key...with parents. When so many children are placed in institutionalized schools with perfect strangers for teachers (think about that...the only assurance you have that a teacher is not a complete lunatic is the state's guarantee, based on subjective testing), a blanket admonition about strangers is a necessity. Without the intuition of a parent to help a child discern in his tender years, his fear of strangers is extended beyond the normal range.
Which leads me to this...The group I took to Shu Swamp yesterday was lucky to encounter the best kind of stranger you can meet in the woods (unless you are lost...): a biologist engaged in research. While I was giving my basic pre-hike talk, Prof. Peter Daniel of Hofstra University stepped in and told the kids his fish story. He had been tracking a trout using radio tagging technology. He told us how he had tagged a trout a while back (assuring us he had used anesthesia), and was following the signal, but found a large mouth bass where he expected the trout to be! Interesting, but not a nice end for the poor trout. You can find out more about helping local trout here. You can read more about Dr. Daniel's research here. Learn to cook trout here.
He then took out a small radio tracking device and let the students hold it while he demonstrated the directional radio tracking equipment. Impressive, and way better than seeing it on TV.
Later in the day, I picked up one of my own children who had taken a train to meet me. While she was waiting, she told me, she encountered a perfect stranger, and enjoyed speaking with him to pass the time. He was an older British gentleman who was involved in the recording industry in Nashville. With music and Tennessee in common, they hit it off. No, not strange at all.