Let me start this post my saying that I know a lot of people. A LOT of people. Not bragging. This will be relevant in a moment.
Among these people I know, some of them pick up hitchhikers. Some of them hitchhike themselves. Some meet people who they met online in person. Some of them talk to strangers. None of them have ever had an encounter where they opened themselves to a stranger and it ended disastrously. This is not to say that my friends and acquaintances lead charmed lives. Whatever terrible thing you can think of, I may well know someone that it happened to, but it was never at the hands of a stranger that they had accepted in. If it was caused by a person, it was caused by someone they knew: family, friend, spouse, parents, etc, not strangers.
On the other hand, I have seen people have the most fantastic opportunities because, when they heard the knock at the door, they opened it. They answered that message online. They talked to the stranger. They said yes, and they were rewarded.
Before I continue, I would like you to think about your own life. Think about all the encounters that you have had with strangers in the last year, in person, online, in public, at parties, whatever. Now, I want you to think about how many of those encounters have ended disastrously. I don't mean you didn't hit it off. I mean disaster: running for your life, calling police, hiding in a culvert kind of disaster. Got any?
Next, think about how many of those chance encounters led to something good, or even something wonderful. Perhaps it led to a long friendship. Perhaps it became a strong relationship. Maybe a business opportunity or an exciting new job/career. How many of those can you think of?
For example, I was talking to someone today who was approached on OKCupid, the dating site, by someone offering her a job. "Sketchy!" I bet you are saying. "What is his real agenda?" you might then ask. His real agenda was to offer her a job. He wants to know people as they present themselves day to day, not how they present in a resume. When she got the first message, she ignored it, thinking it sketchy. Then, he messaged again, and she spoke to him.
She'll be starting the new job, a job which will pay double her last job, a job which is a professional instead of a service job, in a couple weeks. (And I know the guy she's working for. He's perfectly legit.)
We are taught from a young age to be afraid of strangers. We teach our children that evil men lurk around every corner to victimize them. We teach women that every man is a potential rapist. We teach people that every businessperson they meet is looking to rip them off.
Ultimately, our society teaches fear. We teach this for all the best reasons, but the results are the true disaster. Out of fear of an imaginary peril which is so unlikely for any individual as to be unlikely to affect them personally in their entire lives, people give up very real opportunities to grow and gain in very real ways.
Next time you encounter such an opportunity, and you are tempted to shun it because it seems "dangerous" or "sketchy", ask yourself, "is this really dangerous or have I just been taught to think it is dangerous?" Perhaps it is dangerous. You have instincts for a reason, but your fear instincts may have been given serious growth hormones by modern society. Most people I have met are good people who want to do good for me, and I have been enriched by almost every experience I have had when I let people in. Try it. You'll like it.
Thank you for reading. Now go and talk to a stranger.
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