Originally Posted by haha
My social contribution is also a rewarding hobby. I listen to what random people say. Months or years later, when I see these people they are often shocked that I heard, understood, and remembered what they said to me.
I also listen to the possibly disorganized verbiage of people on the street and on the bus. If I perceive danger I fade, otherwise i listen. I learn a lot, and some of these people are not often listened to.
I like that. I'm sure the people really do appreciate having someone show an interest. Since I live in the 'burbs, I don't often come across people like that, but when I have, I'm either too sensitive that they may be dangerous (few are), or I just don't trust my judgement. But I like listening to people who are a bit out there on the z-tail, or people from other cultures or backgrounds.
Two stories on this:
Story 1) I recall spending a late Fall weekend in the city with the family around the Water Tower area, DW and girls went out to do some early shopping (American Girls store?), my son and I went for a walk. There was a very pitiful, elderly looking homeless woman, digging through the trash can in the park area. One of the Streets & San workers came up to here, and said brightly "Hello Sally, how you doin' this morning? You keepin' warm?" and gave her a big hug (and I think slipped her a sandwich or something, but I couldn't see for sure). I would have thought the workers would have been pretty numb to the homeless that gather there, it was quite a sight.
Story 2) A few years ago when I traveled to Budapest with my buddy, we left one concert, and were walking across town to a late night jazz club. Maybe 11-12PM on a Friday night. It was common to see drunks, some with their bottles in hand as we walked, but they kept to themselves, no worries. Then, a group of five late 20-something guys are walking, and they are boisterous and walking right up to people and saying stuff right up close (in Hungarian, so we had no idea what they said).
So I go into defense mode. It was well lit, and plenty of people around, so I wasn't really frightened, but being in a foreign country just made us extra defensive, even a minor scuffle could be difficult to deal with. As they approached us, I made sure to not make eye contact, just look like I was on a mission. Well, the lead guy walks right up to me, and starts blabbering all this stuff in Magyar. I look forward, put up my hand, and sternly say "English - only English", and I'm really perturbed that this guy might interfere with my plans to see a Jazz show and enjoy another beer that evening.
When I said "English", all the sudden his expression changes, he looks totally harmless like a little puppy, and he says to me "You speak English? Will you please let me practice my English? Will you speak with me?".
I cracked up, and said 'Sure, tell me about yourself..." and we had a nice chat ( though he was a bit 'lit up'). He worked for the govt, promoting Table Tennis as a sport - I guess giving demonstrations at schools, things like that. We started talking a little politics and the economy, but then he said, "you are on vacation, you don't want to hear about our troubles", I actually did, but then they moved on. It was a funny and sudden turn of events. I got a kick out of just how fast the whole thing turned around.