Six degrees of separation. The golden standard that shows that as distant as we grow from one another, we will never be more than a half dozen people apart.

I come from a part of the world where nobody is further than two or three degrees apart, and I think it’s an ideal that Canadians can and should aspire towards.

It all starts by reaching out.

Case and point: I probably would not have taken the effort to speak to the dreadlocked 50-something sitting next to me at a pub on New Year’s Eve, but he felt quite the opposite.

What started as an innocent “what are your plans for tonight?” led to an hour-long conversation which felt too surreal to be true. He was a British paratrooper. He runs one of the biggest window-washing companies in all of Toronto. He’s been featured by The Star, talked on air to Rick Mercer, and knows more about preparing turtle meat than anyone else I have met to date. So yeah, you could say he was quite more substantial than my initial impressions may have suggested.

He opened a door that bridged all six gaps in an instant.

But it’s not all about meeting celebrities and seafood connoisseurs. Some people desperately need to be reached out to, and won’t take that first step themselves. The onus falls on those slightly braver few to break down these barriers that our society of strangers has constructed.

A theme we constantly revisit in articles and features is this idea of mental wellness. It’s an unfortunate reality that many students suffer from depression. They are especially depressed in the winter months, such as the one are at the facing now. This is one of the MSU’s priorities, and the university has many services to this very end, but it doesn’t have to be the only solution to an ever-present problem.

An innocuous “hello,” or a casual “how are you” can open a new door for someone looking for a friend or study buddy. The worst that could happen is you get told to sod off, but  even that is a connection of sorts.

Expand your horizons. Go speak to people outside of your residence floor or house. Strangers like to keep their distance but one might argue that distance creates strangers.

I implore you to make 2015 the year that six became five.   

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