If I hazard a guess as to the most endemic, prevalent anxiety among human beings—including fear of death, abandonment, loneliness—nothing is more prevalent than the fear of one another. —R.D. Laing

When we are very young, we fearlessly devour our world and reach out to people with eagerness. As we grow up, surrounded by the daily outpouring of bad news, we become more and more afraid and too often end up retreating farther and farther into our isolated shells. We find ourselves looking at the world in terms of control, possessions, and power instead of growth, understanding, and feeling. But we can begin to connect again.

"Every time I went to the grocery store," wrote a woman named Molly, "I passed this homeless woman who seemed to be living on a bench in front of the store. She never said anything, but she was dirty and I felt threatened somehow. At first I would hurry past her, but it started to bother me. I was angry at her for being there, but I was also upset with myself for getting so flustered.

"Gradually I began to give her whatever loose change I had. One day, I stopped and talked to her just long enough to introduce myself and learn her name. After that we would always smile and greet each other by name. It may sound strange, but I began to look forward to seeing her smile and ask me how I was doing.

"One day, I sat with her for a while, and she told me a little about her life and how she had gotten to this place. She told me it was people like me—those people who were still willing to see her as a person—who gave her the strength to keep trying. All the way home I thought of her and realized that she had shaken me out of my tiny little world and, in a way I can't easily describe, had made my life much richer."

Like Molly, to break out of our shells and return to the joyful richness of life, we need to become fearless again. We can reach out and share in one another's experience—who knows what amazing thing will happen as a consequence. Try talking today to a stranger and see what magic is created.

Editors of Random Acts of Kindness in Practice Random Acts of Kindness