"Don't talk to strangers." Every early '90s cartoon had at least one PSA about this. I got the message but messed up the application. You see, I didn't consider anyone a stranger when I was young. I spoke to anyone who'd listen and listened to anyone who spoke. That's not so unique. Where my story is slightly different is that I continued to think that way into my teens and twenties. I thrived on socialization. I could meet a person anywhere at anytime and strike up a conversation. I enjoyed it. Meeting new people was thrilling. It was exciting to learn about people. To learn their drives and ambitions. To open the book of their lives and be moved by their stories. It still is exciting. However, something has changed.

I no longer seek people out. I no longer search for new stories. I've allowed myself to take the path of isolation. I'm not alone, mind you. I have family and friends whom I love and who love me back. What I mean is that I've become complacent about meeting new people. I'm happy with the people I know. When at a social function I tend to stick close to my friends. When in public I opt not to interact with those around me. I use the self check-out at the grocery store. I bring my headphones on airplanes. I have finally accepted the message, "don't talk to strangers." I've noticed, since I started being a public hermit, that I've become more selfish. I've stopped expanding my horizons. I've been less compassionate and caring and kind. I want to change these things, but I haven't been sure how. I've lost some of the natural social skills I used to possess that would make this correction easy. How can I retrain myself to open up?

The Salutation Project is what I've come up with. The idea is simple; meet one new person every day for a year and post (anonymously as I can) what I've learned about them and, if possible, about myself. I've decided not to be too specific with the criteria for "meeting" someone. I'll classify meeting someone as sharing a greeting, introduction, and handshake. The reason for the greeting is self explanatory. I can't meet someone is I don't say, "hallo." The intro assures that I've given them my name, and have learned theirs. The handshake seems simple, but I believe this is the profound piece. This physical contact not only elicits trust, but also acceptance. The goal of all this is to allow 365 people to effect who I'll be one year from today.

I know what you're thinking, cause I've thought it myself. Why don't I just do this thing and leave the internet out of it? The primary reason is for accountability. Knowing that someone may read this will encourage me to keep the project going. Secondly, as I said earlier, I'm not that unique. There may be other people who have felt the same way I have. I hope this blog can be an encouragement to you. I hope you'll encourage me as I try to re-socialize myself. I hope whoever finds this will enjoy it.