By Kenneth Justice
“I don’t get it dude, she could be doing so much more with her life so why is she getting drunk every night?”
~ When people at coffee find out I have a certification in chemical addictions counseling they usually end up telling me stories about themselves or loved ones who’ve struggled with addiction. I suspect its similar to finding out someone is a lawyer (you tell them about the time you got pulled over by a police officer and were treated poorly) or if you’re introduced to a doctor (you ask them for medical advice regarding that weird blemish on your skin that won’t go away).
Recently a stranger at coffee was telling me about his sister, “She’s 25 years old and is extremely likable and bright. She has a degree from a prestigious university yet she’s doing nothing with her life but getting drunk every night” he said
Not even Sigmund Freud could diagnosis the addictive behavior of a young woman through a mere 14 minute conversation with her brother, so I simply listened patiently and asked questions when it seemed appropriate.
What drives a total stranger to opening up to me at coffee; or opening up to anyone for that matter…. who they’ve only just met? It’s a question that comes up from time-to-time and it’s been the backdrop for my Drinking in the Culture Tour as I meet with readers and fellow bloggers in coffee shops all around the Western World this year (I will be in Pittsburgh this weekend).
Initially, I thought that as I publicly ventured out from behind the privacy of my local café into coffee shops all around the Western World to meet with people; that everyone would be more reserved about telling me their stories…..but now having completed trips to Costa Rica, Atlanta, and Chicago the exact opposite has been true; even though people know who I am and know that I’m going to be writing about my experiences they still want to tell me their stories.
There were a number of times in Costa Rica, when it was after I told strangers I’m on a writing tour blogging about the people I meet that they instantly opened up to me, sharing very personal stories about; love, addiction, sex, and fill-in-the-blank.
And as I keep thinking about this question I come back to the same realization over-and-over; the Western World in our quest towards individualism has so isolated us from each other that we long for deeper connections to our fellow humans.
Let’s face it, the Western World has become a much more unfriendly place as time marches on,
—-) Most people don’t know their neighbors
—-) Many people are fearful of strangers
—-) A lot of people long to share stories with each other
Statistically, the rate of people who struggle with depression and/or loneliness increases each year at exponential rates and there is an amazing statistic about third world countries that have a more communal culture atmosphere; the rate of loneliness and depression is practically nil.
Sure, we here in the Western World can be proud of all of our technological achievements, many of which like Apple products are built off of slave labor that is committing suicide in non-Western countries. But with all of our technological achievements we simply can’t get away from the fact that there is a thirst within our soul to connect in face-to-face atmospheres with our fellow humans.
We long for more opportunities to laugh and cry with other people. To share stories about the good times and the not-so-good times. There is a thirst within our being to be less fearful of strangers and more open to connecting with the people all around us.
When I was younger I’d listen to NEWS reports about young women raped by strangers or stories about innocent bystanders being shot in the line-of-fire by bank robbers. But as I got older I realized that these negative stories which the media props up in the forefront of their reports; don’t represent the way life REALLY is. The world is not nearly as scary a place as the media makes it out to be.
As I travel from one city to the next, I find that strangers are often more helpful than not. Men and women who don’t even know me are more than likely to help me with directions, traveling advice, or simply to sit and chat while we share our experiences.
Perhaps I’ totally wrong about this, but I simply don’t think the world is as scary as we were told.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,
I will be in Pittsburgh this weekend, I’d love to meet you over a cup of a coffee!
Categories: Culture & Society