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Why be so suspicious of others?

By Heather Large | Talking Point | Published:

Read the latest Talking Point column from Wolverhampton Labour Councillor Beverley Momenabadi

Most people are nice, kind, decent human beings …

In a world where we are fearmongered weekly and our brains are filled with daily news stories of murders, attacks and robberies, it might be hard to get your head around the idea that most people are nice, decent human beings.

We’re brought up from a young age to be cautious about strangers and rightly so, stranger danger is an important thing for children to learn. But how many of us take this treatment of strangers in to adulthood?

I was on the train to Manchester to visit my parents a few weeks ago, I sat next to a woman on the train. She’d ordered a small bottle of wine from the train service and offered me a glass. After a long day at work, I couldn’t have snapped her hand off fast enough. We sat chatting and had glass of wine together. It was enormously kind and most enjoyable.

When I arrived at my parents, I told my mum who jumped down my throat about how dangerous it was to accept drinks off a stranger! I had flashbacks to being a teenager and started to ponder the risks and dangers involved with what I’d just done. So, this woman could have been a serial killer whose ploy was to prey on an unknowing young woman, spike her drink and the rest could have been history. But, the more likely scenario is that this woman was just a generous, decent person who was happy to have some companionship on the train journey.

I’ve took this idea of not presuming that everyone is a dodgy serial killer one step further. For over two years now, I’ve opened my home to strangers. I’ve mostly had young, female professionals living in my home with me, none of whom I know from Adam (or Eve). My friends and family felt uncomfortable with this to begin with but not knowing these people never bothered me. In fact, we mostly became friends.

I am also signed up to a homeless scheme called YMCA Open Door where, if possible, I host homeless, vulnerable youngsters in my house. I’ve had one young girl so far who was fleeing an arranged marriage. My friends and family were REALLY unsure about this and when I told them, I was asked to usual questions, ‘what if they steal something, what if they trash the house, how do you know that you’ll be safe with them’. Well, the truth is, I can’t be sure of any of those things but a wise woman once told me that ‘most people are nice, kind and decent human beings’. And they are. In my experience, they have been and I can say that I’ve never had any issues with any of the people that I’ve opened up my home to.

Now, I’m not saying that stranger danger is wrong or that we shouldn’t be cautious. There has been the odd occasion that being too trusting has backfired on me and I'm not undermining anyone's personal experiences. But, the point that I’m making is that maybe we should all test ourselves to not assume the worst of people all the time. You don’t have to open up your home to strangers or homeless people but why not make the effort this week to assume that most people are kind, decent, human beings and not be so suspicious of them. Why not spend this week being the change you want to see, being the person who starts the conversation on the train and brightening up someone’s day.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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