I am kind of in love with strangers, the conservative business man in the three piece suit on the metro, the old lady who cuts my fabric at the craft store, the traveling hipster kid dressed in skinny black jeans with the straggly dog.
On any given day, I have at least three memorable stranger experiences. I am not sure why or how, it may just be in my genes. My childhood was filled with memories of my mother having heavy, deep and real conversations in three minutes flat with the checkout girl and toll guy.
Maybe it is the allure that we are connected for just a moment with no past or future to hold, or realizing that there may be less danger in "stranger danger" after all. The simple idea of breaking social boundaries to reach out or offer something to people we don't know often reveals all kinds of things about humanity we never imagined.
Just ask filmmakers Sarah Sellman and Greg Grano. The duo spent last summer, 60 days to be exact, traveling the country relying solely on the kindness of strangers for a place to sleep each night and maybe an occasional dinner. It all started when in his sleep one night when Greg proclaimed they should go to Bear, Colorado. It stuck with him the next morning when he woke; both he and Sarah were instantly excited to follow this obvious dream destiny. The only problem was, there is no Bear, Colorado. There are however, five other towns named Bear in the United States, so they decided to take a hell of a road trip to see them all.
Sarah had her own dream brewing. The artist grew up in a bed and breakfast and spent her childhood being curious, asking questions, and collecting stories of the myriad of folks that traveled through her life growing up. She had always craved an adventure that included exploring the kindness of strangers, one that required a certain amount of faith and trust in her fellow American. This was the just the opportunity, just the adventure.
Thirty states later, the film includes tales as vast and different as all the places they visited. Stories from the daughter of the last warrior woman of the Cheyenne mountain tribe, twice married ghost hunters in a small town in New York, and just regular Mississippi kids trying to sort out the "country" stereotype. The majority of the people that took them into their homes had recently experienced some kind of loss, death, job, a major change, etc. I wonder if our vulnerability as a people leaves us more open to offer and receive kindness.
Yet even with all these interesting characters, I am most intrigued by Sarah and Greg. They are bright, creative and brave, yet feel so ordinary, in a really beautiful way. Their gentle authenticity is a story all in itself. Watching them hold the space for goodness to unfold almost makes me think kindness just may be the only way to live, to be bold enough to walk into life with eyes wide open, hoping for the best.
You can't help but root for them as they are still on edge; hoping kindness will see them through the last leg of the project. They have until January 21 to come up with around $4,000, the rest of the pledged funding through Kickstarter to help them with the editing and last details to complete the film. It feels all strangely ironic and perfect, that strangers are their only hope and help in the end.
"I think I like people even more than I used to." Greg says.
"Definitely." Sarah replies.
After all this, we do too.