Friends are important parts of our lives. They laugh with us, share their joy, make us feel better when we are down, brighten up our days, and offer genuine support and advice. When we are mature enough to become well-acquainted with our interests, we seek out to find friends who are alike, so that we could spend hours and hours talking about the same books, music or movies we like. We believe that those are the people that we would get along with since we have so much in common. But have you ever tried to step out of your comfort zone and get to know people that are different than you? There is something good in the unexpected – we can learn something new about ourselves and become a better person.
When fate brought together an illiterate prisoner and an encyclopedia editor
For some prisoners, being incarcerated brings about retrospection of their lives and a desire to change for the better. This is what happened to Robin Woods during his time in Maryland Correctional Institution. His desire to change led to quite unusual friendship with Mark Stevens.
Woods, growing up in a housing project in Cumberland, Maryland, never really learned how to read as a result of resentment towards authority figures. He decided to learn how to read during his time in prison, which brought Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia in his hands. During one of his reading sessions, he spotted a mistake, and he felt the need to inform the editor, Mark Stevens, even though he wasn’t sure his message will reach him.
To his surprise, Stevens responded, and thus this unbelievable friendship started with exchanging many letters and later phone calls. They finally met in person after almost a decade since the first letter. At their first meeting, Woods honestly said to Stevens “I never met you until today, but I love you very much. You’re a good man.” These two people have nothing in common at first sight, yet they found something good in each other – inspiration, support to stay on the right path, and a whole new perspective on life.
When the number one tech guy met the big-shot investor
When Bill Gates first met Warren Buffett in 1991, at the request of his mother, he hardly thought they would get along as he believed they have nothing in common, since Gates considered himself “a technology nerd” and Buffett as “a big-shot investor.” However, on their first encounter, they started talking and as the hours went by, Gates realized he was wrong: “We were suddenly lost in conversation and hours and hours slipped by. He didn’t come across as a big-shot investor. He had this modest way of talking about what he does.” This friendship still lasts to this day, as they constantly learn something new from each other, challenge each other and grow together.
The key is to step out of your comfort zone
You may think some relationships seem improbable, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be great and full of love and respect. Meeting people who are nothing like you will open completely new horizons to you, and bring new perspectives to life, and many new benefits. Break the pattern and step out of your comfort zone if you want to achieve personal growth. Be open-minded and try to experience new views. Although these kinds of friendships might not look as they will last for a long time, they are the ones that last for a life time since there is so much you can learn from each other. This can bring benefits not only to you, but to community as well, as we can see from the example of Emily Farmer (25) and McEwan Voorhees (100) who became friends as Emily decided to play the piano to elderly people at Heritage Place in Bountiful. They’ve become close friends and learned so much from each other.
Challenge yourself to do something new every day – travel to some new place alone, and try to make friends by walking up to complete strangers and starting random conversations. Or, make use of so many meeting apps out there. You would be surprised at how many great friendships you could start once you open yourself to the possibility of meeting people who seem to not share any of your interests. Try out activities you’ve never dared trying before and by pushing yourself further, you will meet new people that will challenge and push you even more to reach your full potential.
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