The thesaurus on my computer defines a "people person" as someone who enjoys being with other people and easily becomes friends with them.

I am the consummate "people person."

Like a plant needs sunshine to thrive, I thrive best with contact from people.

While some tell me they find it draining to be around strangers, when I'm in that situation I call it being a Stranger in Paradise.

I am invigorated after a little social contact with others.

Last week a woman from church that I'm just getting to know invited me to lunch at her favorite little restaurant. When I got there, she had two of her close friends with her.

What fun it was to get to know three special women. Each one was so interesting, and by the time lunch was over, I felt like I had three fascinating new friends.

I often think we can go to church week after week and not really get to know any parishioners we don't see socially.

We may recognize familiar faces, but that's about it.

I'm so pleased the women reached out to get to know me. I was so invigorated by that luncheon that I reached out to two other women I've been wanting to get to know better. We agreed to meet for lunch, and by the time the lunch was over, we felt like we knew each other a long time.

Why don't we do that more often?

When we are little kids, we look at another kid we don't know and ask: "Wanna play?" Kids don't hesitate to make instant friends that way.

When we get older, we lose that ability. In place of that easy camaraderie with strangers, we feel uncomfortable or even intimidated.

While I've never felt uncomfortable around new people, I have come to realize as I get older I don't reach out to new people as often as I did when I was younger.

I fall into the trap of enjoying the friends I already have. When I go to a banquet or social event with one of my close friends, I tell her we should make a point of getting to know others there. We agreed that's what we will do.

But more often than not, we end up mostly talking to each other, not knowing more than the names of the strangers at our table.

That invitation to lunch reminded me of the joys of really getting to know someone new. I resolve to remember to do it more often.

One reason why my newspaper job is perfect for me is that I have the opportunity to meet interesting people from all walks of life. I'm always revved up after I spend time interviewing someone.

I believe each of us has a fascinating story to tell. The older we get, the richer the story. I feel privileged when I can tell someone's story in the newspaper.

Often, when I get home from the interview, I tell my husband, "I just interviewed the most fascinating person." He says I glow after a good interview.

My friend Kay is outgoing and fun to be around. But she insists she doesn't like to talk with strangers, even thought I don't believe her because she's great talking with strangers. When I tell her she could meet new friends, she says she's happy with the friends she has.

I'm happy with my friends, too. But that doesn't mean I don't love to meet new people and make new friends.

Another friend who lost her husband a few years ago keeps telling me how lonely she is. She claims she sits in the house day after day with nothing to do and no one to talk to.

When I give her suggestions for places she can go and activities she can join where she will meet friends, she won't do it. "I could never talk to strangers," she insists.

I remind her I was a stranger to her before we met in dance class. I told her about line dancing class where you don't need a partner but you can still enjoy dancing. She won't go by herself, she says.

No, she'll just sit home and be lonely.

So many people do the same thing.

While attending an association meeting in our housing development, I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me.

She told me her husband died five years ago and she's been miserable ever since.

When she complained there is nothing to do in our community, I told her about fitness classes in the community center, free tennis lessons on our courts, the garden club, women's club and volunteer groups that are a great way to get to know others.

She says it's "too intimidating" to walk into a group.

Why is it some people find it easy to talk to strangers and others can't do it? Maybe part of it is our DNA.

My mother used to tell stories about when I was a baby. She claims even before I could talk I used to put my arms out for others to take me.

When I was still in preschool I liked visiting neighbors in our apartment complex, neighbors my mother didn't even know.

Like Will Rogers, I believe a stranger is only a friend we haven't met yet.

At any age, there's a new friend waiting for you. All you have to do is be open to it.