The New York TimesThe New York Times

They may be just acquaintances. They're important to you anyway

By Paula Span

23 Apr 2023 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

The NYT looks at how seemingly trivial interactions with strangers, such as local shop-keepers, can have an impact on our well-being. A sense of belonging is key to thriving, the author argues.

Victoria Tirondola and Lam Gong first struck up a conversation last spring at the dog run in Brookdale Park in Bloomfield, New Jersey, when they realized that each owned a dog named Abby. Tirondola, 65, an insurance sales representative who lives in nearby Cedar Grove, has a tiny bichon-poodle mix. Gong’s Abby, older and portlier, is a terrier-beagle.

They chatted about dogs at first. Then they learned that they both cooked, so “we talked about food and restaurants,” said Gong, 67, a retiree living in Clifton.

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