In times of a worldwide Pandemic, people have had to rethink how they give attention to other people. We have had to think about what kind of relationships we need and what kind of relationships we don’t. Many people have ended up cutting ties with distant friends in order to strengthen their bonds with real friends.
We realized the value of our friends while longing for human connection. Being in good company, where you can laugh, cry, forget about some things and remember others, make new memories, slow down time, aspire, and inspire is probably one of the biggest joys there is. Sometimes we meet people we feel an instant bond with. It doesn’t matter if we are strangers or not.
We compiled a collection of stories about strangers finding each other. It shows that we are not the only ones who have relationships beyond our real friends.
We spoke with Shasta Nelson to find out more about how the Pandemic affected our interactions with others, as well as some other things we always wanted to know about finding friends and maintaining our friendship. Nelson is the author of three books. She shared a lot of useful insights about Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.
“The pandemic has obviously reduced a lot of our opportunities for face-to-face connections and the social interaction that often happens spontaneously due to close proximity. A lot of people are feeling lonelier and are reporting higher emotional stress,” Nelson explained.
2. One of the kindest strangers.
I thought it was a good idea to fly by myself with my two kids and James, who was exhausted because we were standing in line at the airport. Out of the blue, one mom stops the line for security and says “here, jump in front of me! I know how it is!” Wyatt fell asleep and I was trying to carry everyone’s carry-on when another mom jumps out of her place in line and says “hand me everything, I’ve got it”. When I said thank you to both of them they said “don’t you worry, we’re going to make sure you get on that flight.”
The second woman helps me get through security, and then she grabs all of it and walks us to the gate to make sure we get on the flight. After he finally falls back to sleep, he starts to scream at take off. After about 45 min, this angel comes to the back and says “you look like you need a break” and holds Wyatt for the rest of the flight AND walks him all the way to the baggage claim, hands him to blake, hugs me, and says “Merry Christmas!”
A lot of people are reporting more meaningful interactions. This is because they started “focusing time and energy on going deeper with fewer people. We have felt more comfortable being vulnerable, have reconnected with long-distance relationships, and have learned new things about each other as we base more of our shared time together on conversations than on activities,” the friendship expert explained.
6. A man teaches a young man how to tie his tie.
The young man was having trouble with his tie. The woman in the red coat noticed, and asked “Do you know how to tie it properly?” The young guy said “No ma’am.” She taps her husband and says “Come to this side (her right side; he was standing on her left side) and teach this young man how to tie his tie.” The elder gentleman watched the young gentleman repeat the steps and show him that he had it after he gave him a step-by-step lesson.
7. A toddler and a stranger at an airport.
When my daughter was waiting to board the plane last night, she wanted to meet and say hello to everyone she could, until she walked up to this man. He asked if she wanted to sit with him. She offered him snacks after he showed her how to draw with his tablets. This was 45 minutes and it was not a short exchange. I couldn’t help but think of different genders, different races, different generations, and the best of friends as I watched them. I want this world for her.
Nelson said that finding new friends is getting harder as we get older. However, “it has less to do with age and more to do with the fact that the Consistency— repetitive time together—required for friendship felt more automatic when we were in school. The only equivalent we have now where we see the same people on an ongoing basis is the workplace, but we haven’t always been as encouraged to socialize there as we did when we were kids in school.”
As a result, “now, in order to build that ongoing, regular interaction that allows us to bond, we often have to initiate it, schedule it, and plan it,” Nelson added.
9. The family will be surprised by the flying home for the holidays. I met this person at the airport. Best friends in a second.
10. An older man came to eat at a restaurant. He told some stories to his server, who joined him during his meal.
Nelson talked about how it is possible for two complete strangers to become friends. “As I look at all the social science that researches relationships, I have found that there are three factors that are always present: 1) Consistency—repetitive time and shared experiences, 2) Positivity—positive feelings that leave us feeling accepted as we enjoy each other, and 3) Vulnerability—sharing and learning about each other.”
“So, yes,” she confirmed, “we can take strangers and create friendships as long as those two people spend time together in ways that leave them both feeling more known and more appreciated.”
13. A police officer in North Carolina shared a meal with a homeless woman.
19. My little sister left this world a year ago. My mom and her (sister) heart recipient met over the weekend.