People, normally preoccupied with their family members and a small circle of friends, do not generally want to become familiar with strangers; they take strangers to be ‘others’. This kind of thinking is based simply on suppositions about others – and sometimes such suppositions are unfounded. Experience shows that it is perfectly possible to make friends out of strangers.

Swami Rama Tirath (1873 – 1906) a man of considerable education, decided in the last decade of the nineteenth century to visit the USA, in spite of not having enough money to finance his stay there and in spite of there being no Indians to receive him on the American soil. After a long sea voyage, he reached the American coast, where he disembarked along with the other passengers. There were many Americans who had come to receive their friends and relatives at the port, but Swami Ram Tirath eventually found himself walking all alone in a corner of the port. An American, seeing him there, approached him and asked, ‘Do you have any friends in America?’ Swami Ram Tirath said: ‘Yes, there is one friend and that friend is here.’ Saying this, he embraced the American.

This kind of behaviour was unexpected, and the American was very much impressed. He said: ‘Yes, I am your friend.’ and then he took him along with him to his home. Swami Ram Tirath remained his guest till he left America for India.

This example has a great lesson. It is that no one is a stranger to you; everyone is your potential friend. Just behave in a friendly way and accept others as your sisters and brothers. If you can sincerely adopt this kind of friendly attitude, you will find that everyone is your friend, and no one is alien to you.

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