My name is Derek, and I love to talk to strangers.

Sometimes, strangers run away and I worry that they think I’m a serial killer. It really hurts my feelings. Other times, though, they sit down and talk. They confess that they haven’t talked to a human in a week or two. Or they tell me their entire life story and sometimes cry. I remind myself that talking to strangers is important, and that we need each other.

I once drove a car alone on a long journey from Mongolia to London for three months. As I drove, sometimes I would get really sad. I’d start thinking about something I didn’t want to think about. Sometimes I’d pull over and pray. Other times, though, I’d walk into a coffee shop or a restaurant or I’d talk to my Airbnb host, and these humans that I hardly knew would save me. They’d listen. Even saying the thoughts I was having out loud to another human helped me see that the thoughts weren’t true. These humans I didn’t even know would help me find my way.

When I came home to the USA I went to see my therapist and told her that I didn’t really think I needed to see her anymore, but that I liked her and I liked talking to her and that’s why I kept coming. She said that 50% of the people who come to her come not so much because they need a therapist but because they need someone to talk to, and they don’t have anyone who is willing to listen to them.

These experiences made me wonder if humans could help humans by listening, and if listening is loving. I wondered if I could create a safe way for people to talk about their lives with me, and if it might help them the way it helped me. I wondered if we could create just a little more trust in the world by helping each other along our journeys, and if that might make the world a little bit of a better place.

So I set up a little sign and was surprised to find that people wanted to talk about their lives with me. They wanted to talk about their pain between them and their twin brother, they wanted to wonder aloud if the universe might be a hologram, they wanted to discuss how they should finish a poem they’d been working on—and that was just the first day. At the end of each conversation I asked them if they felt better than when they had started. They said they did, and, I felt better and happier, too.

I don’t think we solved any of their problems, but I think talking and listening has it’s own way of solving, and that it is own way of loving.

If you want, you can join the movement. I don’t know quite what that looks like yet, but when I do I’ll be in touch.

You can also learn more about me at https://www.dereksnook.net/

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