Why I’m Teaching My Kids to Talk to Strangers

What is the number one life lesson that every mother gives to their children from the earliest age? DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS! What are the reasons? It is dangerous, you can’t trust them, you might get hurt. Those are the probably the worst nightmares of any mother. Have I raised the hair on the back of your neck? Did you just put down your smartphone to look out the window at your kids? Good, I’ve evoked some strong emotions. What if I told you that I WANT my kids to talk to strangers? Would you call Child Protective Services on me? Before you do that, let me show you something.

I’ll bet you’re already talking to strangers

Some of you may be introverts, that’s great! I’m not one, if you haven’t figured that out. In fact, one of the first times I hung out with my wife (super introvert) before we were even dating, I told her point blank “I could NEVER marry an introvert.” Well never say never, am I right?  I want to give you some warm feelings here. Think about a favorite character from a book. I know from looking at my site statistics that he’s probably someone like Mr. Darcy. You want to hate him but you can’t, there is something appealing about him. Now imagine that he is in the room with you, sitting in a wing back chair reading a book by the fire. You get the urge to talk to him but you won’t, why? Because you are afraid, because he is a STRANGER. Now put him back inside of the book, you spend the entire book having a conversation with him and by the end of the book he has ceased being a stranger and you, just like the lucky lady in the book, have fallen head over heels for someone who only a few hundred pages before was a complete stranger. This is an example where YOU just spoke to a stranger and fell in love.P3213425

What does Jane Austin have to do with Sunday Drives you might ask? Well I’m glad you asked. I like to imagine Sunday Drives like a story that I’m reading. Each mile is another line on the page. When I simply skim through a book, I often miss those subtle references, the inside jokes, and the emotions that are being thrown at you by the author. Studies show that the internet is training our brains to read everything in an F shape where we read the first line, skim the next few, pick back up at the next section, and rinse and repeat until we get to the bottom only having comprehended about 40% of what we read. I would reckon that you are doing this exact same thing every time you step into your car. You never engage in a conversation with the characters in the story. Why not? Because they are strangers.

The Stranger’s House that started it allschoppenhorst home

Let me tell you one of my stories, and its a story that really could and should be credited with the birth of this blog. We found a house along the side of the road. This house was certainly not much to look at and for most people driving down that stretch of MO-94 it got lost in the background of the bluffs and rolling hills of Wine Country. But this house intrigued us and we got out. We pulled off that road and had a conversation with that house, we took pictures, we asked who had lived there and what it must have been like. Obviously that house couldn’t talk back, but you know who could? Strangers. The very next day, I sent an email to the Warren County Historical Society to see what they knew about the house and they directed me to a woman who had written a book about it. That day I called her and had one of the most fascinating discussions of my life. I learned new things about the Civil war, about life in the frontier in the mid 1800s, about Missouri Politics, and about a family with eleven kids who loved that home as much as we did. We got excited about this, and in fact even had thoughts about helping our realtor buy the place as a rehab project. In the end we didn’t, but you know what we got out of that? I now have a new book about a fascinating part of Missouri History, a number in my phone to ask any questions I want about Warren County, and perhaps most importantly a new found love for a small piece of my home state. I never would have known what I was missing and you never will either if you don’t get out and talk to strangers.P2292799

Join the Driving on Sunday movement!

This is the skill that you should be teaching your children right now! Every single stranger that you meet has a story. Have you ever heard of Humans of New York? That’s all it is, it is one guy talking to strangers and sharing their stories. Every single house, park, cemetery, or store has a story that you will not know until you get out of your car and talk to strangers. These skills are essential for getting more enjoyment out of life and they can even help make you more money. We’re doing it, we’re #drivingonsunday and falling more and more in love with our home and you can too.

This weekend commit yourself to talking to one stranger, just one. I’ll even give you a question to ask them, and no its not a pick up line. Just ask them “Do you come this place often? What is your favorite thing to do here?” And when you do that I want to hear about it. Share this post on your favorite social media site with one thing that you learned from that stranger using the #drivingonsunday. If you do that, you could win your very own Driving on Sunday bumper sticker that you can use to show everyone that you are not afraid to talk to strangers. Are you with me? Will you do that? Will you become part of the movement to fall in love with your home?

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It’s Not Sunday, Stupid

There is one comment that we get more often than any other, and it isn’t “how do you get your boys to behave so well” or “how do you make enough money to go aimlessly driving.” Which is good, because my answers to both of those questions are “we don’t, really.”P4113929

No…the question they ask is “Why do you go driving on Sunday?” or “How can you go #drivingonsunday when it’s NOT EVEN SUNDAY?” Those are good questions which I plan to elaborate on, but first let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a young father who was just finishing a particularly hard day of work when his boss comes in and dumps a whole pile of papers. There isn’t an urgent deadline on these papers, but the edifice that has been dumped before him represents the fact that he is no further along than he was at the beginning of the day’s labor.

He has now come to a cross roads. He could dive into his work and begin to whittle it down, leaving less for tomorrow or he could go home to his gorgeous wife who made him his favorite meal (meat loaf… but not her recipe, his grandma’s recipe because that’s the way to make it. This discussion cost him about $500 in counseling fees when they first got married) and their 3 bouncing baby boys who are ready to pounce in playful joy the minute he steps over the threshold.

But just then he remembers he isn’t living a 1950’s sitcom (his family is so much more wonderful than that) and regardless of how wonderful his family is (did I say they are wonderful?) the thought of being at home brings a whole other set of overwhelming thoughts involving a hard day of work. Still insisting on spending time with his family, he comes up with a third option, and option of fun for the whole gang! He suggests they go for a drive!

He calls up his Honey and says “Oh honey, you’ve been working so hard. Why don’t we save the roast duck for another day and pack a picnic dinner for a nice evening drive!”P2282589

What an idea that is! We could all relax in the comfort of our captains chairs (only some of us restrained with 5 point harnesses. Obviously this isn’t the 50’s since safety belts aren’t optional anymore…)  and enjoy a nice evening as the sun sets. Then we can return home and literally throw the boys in bed without so much as a whimper and everyone can go to sleep with a smile.

She loves the idea, they all get in the car and enjoy delicious egg salad sandwiches as they point to picturesque farm houses, walk along park trails, and imagine what it would be like to walk in everyone’s shoes. And just like he imagined, everyone went to sleep with the aforementioned smile.P1251556

The End.

With that image, I think I have made my point. Going for a drive is often much easier than dealing with real life. You may also have caught in my subtlety that this story happens on a work day which means that it is sometime between Monday and Friday and coincidentally not on a Sunday. How can this be, you asked? Well if you understand the metaphor that is at play here you see that Sunday Driving doesn’t necessarily involve the day or  even the action of driving. #Drivingonsunday is in fact a state of mind that includes but is not limited to the following:

1. A sense of Wanderlust (See things with new eyes)
2. A sense of Imagination (Let your mind wander to what it must have been like in the past)
3. A sense of Humor (because Clarence will ask you Why the Chicken Crossed the Road about 1000x)
4. A sense of sight (because it would be quite dangerous to drive without this)
5. A desire to tread off the beaten path (You might be able to claim a discovery of something before it was cool)
6. A desire to see new things (Or maybe old things!)
7. A desire to enjoy the amazing things that are all around you (perhaps the most important)
8. A desire to appreciate your home (see above!)
9. A desire to put the drudgery of the week behind you

If you have any of those things, even your morning commute can be a Sunday Drive. (Although, I’d suggest maybe turn the evening commute into a Sunday Drive instead. This way you can make it to work on time. And maybe stick to the beaten path, I’m told they don’t like it if you drive on the sidewalks.)

So really, anytime you are out and about. Enjoying the stories down every road, take some pictures, talk to some strangers, look at the little things and if you do, be sure to share them with us at #drivingonsunday (did I mention #drivingonsunday enough?) We might just invite you to turn your story into a guest post!

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4 Reasons You Aren’t Sunday Driving…

Most people would probably say that Sunday leisure driving isn’t quite their speed. Here are several excuses that you might be letting hold you back from some good old local adventure waiting outside your door.

1. Money… who has it?
But guess what? Walking costs zero money! You need the exercise. It’s good for the constitution. As you walk, imagine the history behind the buildings you pass. If you are in the country, imagine what it would be like to be a homesteader. Try to name the trees and plant and flowers. Who ever said Sunday drives need to involve a car? (p.s. a Bike, snowmobile, or chariot would work too.)P2292762

2. Time… I ran out of that yesterday.
Sunday is Aaron’s one day off and one day to prepare for the work week. It’s a precious time usually filled with naps and Netflix when we don’t force ourselves out the door.
Do you really need to watch that rerun of CSI? Let me break it to you, they catch the guy. Now that I’ve just saved you 30 minutes, hop in your car and go driving. (alternatively See #1) See? Our poor kids are longing to get out of the house!P3243582

3. I can’t put more miles on my car, that depreciates the value.
When did you become a car collector? We’d be willing to bet that when you bought that car you bought it because it could get from point A to point B and keep you relatively comfortable while doing it. Cars aren’t a mutual fund. You bought it to drive! You might as well have some fun doing it. (alternatively See #1) See our Juanita LuAnna Wanda? She’s never been happier and she’s going on 10 years. Whew!

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4. There is nothing to see for miles. I’m talking nothing-but-cornfields.
What if we told you that behind each one of those corn fields is a story, a new neighbor, and a fascinating tale of homesteading through very difficult times? If you were to give one of those neighbors a call and ask them about their farm, they just might be willing to tell you about it. Talk to people! These places are all interesting because of the people who lived there! Here is a picture of us on a hike with a friend we met on the trail. She and her husband were so sweet and we had a good time discussing the area, parenting (they had 5 kids), and photography!P2292799

So there! What’s your excuse?

-Aaron and Kezia

P.S.
Since we’ve absolutely convinced you, when you do go out on a drive, send your story to Comments@drivingonsunday.com and we might publish it as a guest post.

 

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Get Lost!

Get lost! No, I’m not rudely insisting that you leave. I’m telling you to go and get lost somewhere. Anywhere really. It doesn’t quite matter because you won’t know where you are anyway.
I’m sure I could spend paragraphs waxing eloquent about the development of neural pathways or how finding your way home can fight dementia and likely there would be some study to back up my outlandish claims. But instead of being one of those posts, I’m going to tell you about the first time that we got lost. So without further adieu, I present to you our tale of getting lost in Mark Twain National Forest.

It was a dark and dreary Sunday afternoon. (Actually it was a bright sunny one which made it a perfect day for going on a drive, but who starts a story like that?) Four weary travelers were racing across the landscape, (again… not weary and not really racing. It was a Sunday Drive, after all). They had traveled so far (only about 50 miles) and had driven so long (about 45 minutes, you really don’t have to go that far to enjoy a Sunday Drive) when eventually a road gleamed off in the distance. It was a simple plain dirt road crossing a small creek with an old church in the corner (that’s all true, I have no comment there).
Aaron looked at his wife (with the most loving yet concerned eyes) and as if through telepathy asked, “What should we do?” (We are very loving and close after all, we hardly have to speak any more in fact. We finish each others…) Unsure of themselves, they decided to press onward across the creek. Miles they drove (well maybe two) until they came to yet another fork. One road veered off the the left up a large mountain (Keep in mind, this is Missouri so we’re quite generous with the term mountain). The other continued straight and looked the more reliable road. It stopped at a dead end:

lost

Out of fear for our lives (actually very little fear, just respect for the “No Trespassing” sign we had just encountered) they quickly made a u-turn with as much skill and precision as a Hollywood stunt driver. (I think it was 9 points. We drive a mini-van. Just let me pretend I’m in an action movie, okay?) And took the road up the “mountain.” (There. Does that make you mountain purists happy?) The road was quite steep and at several places they weren’t sure if the van would make it as the tires spun fruitlessly. (That is only a slight exaggeration. It was a very steep road.) But finally they made it to the top and found that the road continued for quite a distance.

They drove and they drove and realized that there were no road signs. The speed limit picked up but they were still unable to find Highway Y which would take them home. Finally after about 10 miles… (Oh, you want me to comment? No this part is all true.) a small green sign read “Welcome to Iron County.”

P2081921Aaron, the wise and geographically knowledgeable man that he was knew that something was not right. For in his youth he had traveled to Iron County. (A few years ago, actually. Our Honeymoon was there. I think they have a Blue Grass festival and a Lutheran Church that temporarily served as a field hospital for Union Soldiers in the Civil war…You know, this sounds interesting! We may have to go back some time.) Armed with only his memories, Aaron bravely turned around and returned back the way he came. After a few miles, they found that they had been on highway Y the entire time and were home in about 45 minutes.

The End.

Now wasn’t that a brave and harrowing tale? Oh, it wasn’t? Then I guess I’ve made my point. We got lost and the world kept spinning just long enough for us to make our way back home. In the mean time, we had some great conversations, took some great pictures. We got to see a part of Missouri we have never seen, and Clarence even lead us in a stirring round of “No More Monkeys Jumping On the Bed.” Which is always a fine use of a Sunday afternoon.

 

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