I’m going to date myself here, but I remember a toy as a child called pound puppies, where the theme was to encourage people to adopt loveable animals in hard times. I’m not sure how well it worked, but it did leave a mark on my own memory at least. Most of these puppies were quite cute, I have to admit. There is a certain fondness in my heart for cute things, especially cute things that tend to be underestimated or neglected by others. I’m not sure the reasons, but I have found often in my life that I seem to carry a certain look or appearance that says to others “adopt me.”
I don’t mind this. It’s not something that bothers me. I first noticed this tendency (it may have been present before, but I was unaware of it) when I moved to Southern California for college. There were a few families who took me under their wing, which I was very appreciative of, being a young man who had not been used to a great deal of social acceptance. I still think of those families fondly and do my best to keep in touch with them, as they played a pretty important role in turning me from an outcast into someone who at least had some modicum of social skills, which had hitherto been rather nonexistent or at least dormant in my life.
A similar moment of acceptance came when I showed up without warning into the Portland area, without a great deal of history or context. To be honest, it was quite a shock for me to return to the United States in the manner and rushed fashion that I did, rather unsure of my reception given the fact that many of the people I know seem to have deep family and personal connections with others extending for decades and decades. Though I have often been a bit concerned that my newness might cause a great deal of rejection or unfriendliness, at least from what I have seen most people have been rather pleased at the entrance of a reasonably friendly and outgoing stranger with an interseting tale, and I have been gratified at the friendliness I have received, along with the advice and counsel I have received in various matters.
I’m not sure what makes a particular area more friendly to strangers and outsiders. I have traveled to areas that have been very unfriendly to me personally, other areas that have been friendly but where I have quickly recognized that there is a different mindset between their own approach to life and my own. An example of this is in travels where blunt honesty and openness are not well-liked, or where there is a cultural bias against egalitarianism. Other places have been remarkably friendly and have provided a reasonable social base for someone of my particular talents and interests. As someone who has spent much of life as an outsider, I am particularly grateful for those people who are sensitive and kind-hearted and are quick to be friendly and gentle. It is a favor that I seek to give to others, and not one I quickly forget, if ever. I was a stranger, and you took me in.