Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Robbie Stokes, I Talk to Strangers

“Stranger Danger.”

Although the phrase taught by parents might help prevent some abductions, it also hinders the ability to advance the world. It has caused many people to close off the world aside from a close circle; looking the other way when passing someone on the sidewalk.

Contradictory to thousands of years of civilization that was built on communication, Robbie Stokes decided he wanted to make a change.

One day, Stokes decided to quit his job in Congress and end his journey of life progression through people he knows. A friend told him it’s amazing how he turns complete strangers into great friends; one of which includes a 70-year-old Vietnam vet.

“There’s no reason I should have built that friendship,” Stokes said. “But that stranger changed my life.”

So one day, Stokes made a shirt that reads “I talk to strangers,” and the idea took off.

The opportunity presented itself, and with a sense of adventure, Stokes sold all his possessions, packed up in two suitcases and traveled the world. He traveled to 17 countries, meeting people and changing lives along the way.

“No matter the culture or language, someone has something they can offer you,” he said. “If I would have just judged them at face value and said I can’t talk to them, I’d have no idea what they might be able to offer.

“We are all people who have different experiences. Take the uprising in Egypt, when you actually talk to them, you understand where they’re coming from.

He’s back in the United States now, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish the I Talk to Strangers documentary, with the goal of becoming “the first documentary about strangers, funded by strangers.”

Stokes said he has bigger and better things on the horizon, spurred by his sense of adventure. Up next is Saturday’s “Miracle Run” which will take place in his Brevard County, Florida, community. The proceeds will go to strangers in dire need of financial support.

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