Most religious faiths instruct us to welcome the strangers we encounter, and there’s good reason for this. If we engaged only with the people we knew, our world would be small. That leap of faith toward the unknown other is what allows us to grow beyond the family unit, tribe or nation. Everyone you converse with who is not a biological relative — your best friend, neighbor, lover, spouse or even that chatty taxi driver from last weekend — was a stranger before you spoke to that person. Anytime we ignore strangers in our vicinity, whether because of fear, bigotry or the everyday convenience and efficiency of digital technology, we weaken that contract.
Far from random human inconveniences, strangers are actually one of the richest and most important resources we have. They connect us to the community, teach us empathy, build civility and are full of surprise and potentially wonder.