Some days, I seem to talk to more strangers than people I know. It’s the nature of my job and can be exciting, fulfilling, and fun. 

However, often, I do miss the familiarity of friends and family and the opportunity to be with people to whom I don’t have to explain things, but rather just be.

Recently, that was revealed upon returning to my hometown of the last couple of decades. When a new shopkeeper in our village of about 650 residents asked if I had lived there, I had to think for a minute and finally said yes as if I wasn’t sure. The clerk, while new to the store, looked at me as with that understanding, helpful tip of his head as if to say, “Ahhh, another stranger in paradise.” I was curious as to why he wanted to know and was caught off guard when he shared his exciting, and what he felt pressing, news of Oktoberfest… I had not realized Oktoberfest was actually a thing here in Virginia, and I likened it more to my Michigan roots. 

I think to myself, maybe I am a stranger in paradise.

I hate the fact I was the teeniest suspicious of the situation, especially because I really appreciated his hospitality, friendliness, and enthusiasm. 

Not fully understanding the situation, I initially felt as if he was more of personality from Border Patrol at the Windsor tunnel on the Canadian-Detroit line.

In the hustle of my life, have I lost the ability to hear the good news? 

Seemingly, the more and more I am in a world of unknown situations and talking to more people that I don’t know at times, I do so with some apprehension. 

I loathe the nature of that flavor of caution as it feels like a hint of mistrust and negativity. 

No one else would care. 

But I do.

I am not that person. 

I have spent my life connecting with people. 

I never look through people but instead seek to know more about who they are as individuals. I have always been an arms-open person. 

For most of my life, I have been perceptive and understood people as they presented themselves, not all people, but for the most part, I got who they presented as even if they themselves did not fully understand. 

Perhaps a few years back, I would have instantly picked up on the store clerk’s enthusiasm as opposed to reading it as a shakedown, and I regret that I did not see his enthusiasm initially. 

We, as a society, have increasingly become amped-up, defensive word warriors. It seems that more and more people are navigating everyday exchanges defensively—ready for that next sharp, quick-witted yet mean comeback. 

I see it every day at every level in life, social media, and, sadly, even our country’s administration.

Since 2003, when I founded Less Cancer, I have been connecting individuals and communities with information—some of it scary and disturbing. 

Early on, I learned why the message and messenger are critical when working to provide information that can change and save people’s lives. 

My work for Less Cancer has made information available for all—Less Cancer for all. It has improved the standard of living of individuals and communities and provided lifesaving content to health care providers and public health professionals.

We have reached tens of millions in over 40 countries. 

When we become untrusting for no particularly good reason or situation, we stop listening. 

For no reason, we stop trusting the things that matter, such as science, medicine, and critical information that can be lifesaving. 

My brief experience in that small town shop was a nagging reminder as to why we must all keep our hearts and minds open for, without either, we miss opportunities that can make all the difference in our lives and the lives of others.