“Don’t talk to strangers,” our parents told us when we were kids—for safety reasons.
But now that I’m an adult kind of, I’m talking to strangers more—for safety reasons.
You see, I think we’re all a bit lonely inside. We all want and need to connect with others, but how do we possibly break the trance, interrupt the high-speed rhythm everyone’s flowing at? I’m beginning to see that this disconnected rush we’re in is more permeable than I thought, and mostly just an act.
I admit, some days are just crazy busy. But other days, I walk like I have places to be, when in fact, I’m not going anywhere at all. We posture ourselves into these seamless, have-it-together figures to make ourselves fit in, but in doing so, we make ourselves unapproachable. It’s little things over time, like failing to make eye contact and engage with people around us, that eventually causes us to starve ourselves of the real, in-person connection that we all crave. It could be the result of distraction, insecurity, habit, etc. but whatever it is, it’s causing us to miss out on being known in the places we actually live our lives.
We must talk to strangers for our own well-being.
Just these past few days, in an effort to be more present and intentional, I connected with several people I didn’t know well—or at all. These moments could have easily passed me by. I was able to connect because, just for a few minutes, I slowed down and showed up. And that’s where God moves.
One person was a coworker passing by me in the hall. “How’s it going?” I asked, pausing to talk to him. Pausing is actually a pretty novel concept these days, since asking how someone is has become more like a drive-by than a conversation. He said he’d hurt himself working out recently. I asked how—cause I’m nosy and like workout talk—then offered encouragement. After we chatted for a bit, he said I’m mature for my age. I showed up as myself, “Yeah I don’t party like some twenty year olds. Gives me a headache.”
I added lightly, “And there’s the whole God thing.”
He said it’s refreshing to meet someone who’s honest about their faith in the workplace, and began telling me about a Christian book he’s reading. When I asked if he goes to church, he said he’s trying some different options. I offered to send him the link to my church’s website and recommended a Christian book to him. It was a brief conversation, and I don’t know how God will use it. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I chose to engage rather than hurry on by. I invited God into a conversation and He did the rest. You should stop sometimes. Connect sometimes. Cool stuff happens.
The second person I connected with this past weekend happened to be doing my nails. I was feeling a bit down, but decided to try and be present anyway. “Busy day today?” I said. “So so,” she replied with a smile.
“Do you have any plans for tomorrow?” she asked.
“Going to church,” I told her.
“Where do you go?” she asked. And so it began.
I found out Lena is a believer and loves to sing in her church choir. As she passed my hands to and from the Shellac machine, she sang choruses of popular Christian songs to me, asking if I know them. This had never happened to me before. It was odd, but totally awesome! We discussed everything from singing to the Trinity to how amazing grace is.
This all came from God nudging me to just slow down—pause thinking about MY feelings, MY plans, MY problems—and talk to the person right in front of me. It also helps that I showed up: I unashamedly shared what I do on Sundays. What if I’d just said something generic like, “Oh, nothing really?” Our conversation may have died or never gone the way that it did. The more I experience moments like this, the more I notice God’s presence everywhere I go. He wants us to talk to strangers, to be present and connect with people wherever we happen to meet them.
You may be thinking connecting doesn’t always have to involve talking about faith. You’re right! You can demonstrate who Jesus is through your temperament, regardless of the subject. John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love can be as simple as a smile.
I connected with someone last Thursday in yoga a few minutes before class began because I complemented her non-slip towel. It goes on top your mat, yoga newbies. I joked, “I’m gonna have to get one of those before I face plant doing downward facing dog!” We laughed about how sweaty hot yoga is, then introduced ourselves. She recently moved here from Dallas—where I recently went to college. She now lives and works in the same cities where I live and work. How cool is that? The point is: you should complement people’s yoga towels more! Most people are extremely willing to talk to you if you’re brave enough to break the awkward intro barrier. Try it! Say something. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life in yoga, or whatever it is you do, next to strangers who could’ve been your friends.
We’re all in search of community, though we rarely slow down to build it. And even if we do, we often make the mistake of presenting our polished self to impress others, when it’s exposing our true self that connects us. It’s time to start living intentionally. God wants to use you, the real you, in the everyday places you go to show the world who He is. All we need is a few seconds of bravery.
So, big kids, go talk to strangers! “But, but…”
So what? You never know who you’ll meet and what will come of it.
You can do this!
Have a great week!