As I was sitting on a bench at the local forests enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze, I noticed a dog nosing around and got curious about it but it soon disappeared in the grass.
Within a short while I noticed the dog again. This time, it was walking in my direction closely followed by a girl in bathing suit with a towel wrapped around her waist. I called the dog but it ignored me and went sniffing at the trees behind me. I asked the girl if the dog was hers and she said yes. She also told me the dog's name.
I asked my friend if she'd been swimming in the canal and she said yes. She sat in front of me to chat. She asked me where I lived and I said only about half an hour's walk away. She said she and her family had driven all the way from central London. She said they don't have places (canal and marsh) like this where she lives. We talked about other parks we'd both been to. She asked me where my parents are originally from and I told her. She said her parents are originally from Columbia. Her older sister has been there but she hasn't as yet. My friend asked me what countries I've been to and I told her.
While we were chatting, a woman called out and my friend ran off. She was back in a few minutes. She said her mother had just been checking where she was. She continued quizzing me while I quizzed her back. She was nine years old. Then a man called out to my friend. She said she had to go and ran off.
I had a feeling my friend's parents were getting nervous about their daughter speaking to a stranger.
A lot of parents teach their kids to be wary of strangers. The irony is most abuse (physically and emotionally) are carried out by people the children know very well. I believe if you want to protect your children, teach them to see the world as filled with love and that, despite appearances, everyone belongs to the one family of Love; and that "programming" will protect them.
Later, my friend was back. She was now dressed in a short and t-shirt. She quizzed me about my life experiences. After we chatted for a few minutes she said they were about to leave and said goodbye.
I continued to enjoy the sunshine and watching people walk by.
About an hour later, I saw my friend with another girl. She said some friends had joined them so they decided to stay longer. My friend asked me if I wasn't bored sitting in the same spot for all that time. I told her I was enjoying the weather and thinking. She asked me what I was thinking about and I said I think of stories and ideas. I told her about the kinds of stories I write about. Then she and her friend left.
Before I left, I went looking for my friend, who was playing with a baby. I called out to her and said goodbye and she waved back.
It's a shame kids are conditioned to be fearful of "strangers." The good news is as an adult you can always un-condition yourself to see strangers as your friends. I certainly have.
Related articles: It's Good to Talk!; The Magic of Strangers; Childlike Trust; Being a Parent; Curiosity; One Family, One Surname Called Love; What is Family?; Be Like a Child and You're in Heaven