Last fall, my kids played soccer. On my girls' team, there were 3 other moms who I talked to each practice. It was such fun and I looked forward to our chats. Two of them were taking college classes, one was a friend of mine from church, and then there was me. We were all so different from each other and I loved hearing their stories about life and their families.
So, I looked forward to this side of baseball with my son this spring. I was hopeful that I would find some other "kindred spirits" as Anne of Green Gables would say. On Monday, I introduced myself to two moms and had long conversations, but it was different than the fall. Last night, my son had his second baseball practice. And my heart was cheered. I met a mom who I really enjoyed talking to. I enjoyed hearing about her life and what's going on with her. I enjoyed sharing and encouraging each other. What a blessing!
It's an interesting thing walking into a new environment where I don't know anyone. I don't know the system or how things work. It's interesting to walk into a situation realizing that really I don't matter. I don't need to matter (and shouldn't), though, because I'm not the coach. My son is just one of twelve kids on the team. He is in good company with several other boys who've never played before--just like him. There are several boys on the team, though, who can hit and catch and know a bit about what they're doing.
My oldest daughter is in that time of life when she will be walking into a lot of new environments where she doesn't know anyone. How should she deal with that? What parts of her personality will come out? How will she be seen by others?
In college, I read a book about strangers (I'm currently trying to figure out which one it was) and what we do to avoid them. I remember reading that we give space, we look down, we look at an object in another direction...basically, we do a lot of things to avoid eye contact. Of all the things I studied in college, that is one that has haunted me the most.
But, we live in a world that is even more one of strangers today. We have a new, handy tool at our fingertips to help us avoid people we don't want to talk to. We can successfully avoid feeling alone if we have to eat alone and are physically alone.
It is the smart phone. With the internet, texting, and email at our fingertips, there is always something for us to do or think about--other than the fact that we are alone and not actually "talking" to anyone.
Georg Simmel wrote an essay in the early 20th century about "the stranger". I'd never heard of this essay before this morning, but I gather from what I've read that it details the role and even the importance of the stranger in our society. He explains that a stranger has to do with distance/proximity. The stranger is present, yet not involved or engaged. On Wikipedia, it is explained that the controversy about his essay has involved the application and implications of his ideas about strangers.
I've found that it's intimidating to walk into situations where you don't know anyone. What if people don't want to talk to you, what they're people you don't want to talk to, what if people aren't who they say they are, what if... There are so many what ifs.
But, here are some new "what if?"s
What if you make a connection that encourages someone who's been having a bad day?
What if the person you approach needs a friend?
What if the person you approach is scared?
What if the person you approach is...
What if it isn't about you?
What if what we really need to find is the peace that comes with knowing that God made us the way we are--peace that comes when we understand that we are loved by the creator of this world and that that matters far more than what another human being may (or may not) think of us. If we have this peace, then rejection from strangers won't matter the same way. It won't change how we feel about ourselves or life.
The first question question in the Westminster Confession of Faith is this: Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to
enjoy him forever.
That means that it's all about Him and not about us. Mark 12:30-31 tells us that we are to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. and the second is this: To Love your neighbor as yourself."
I watch my 11 year old daughter and see her self-confidence. She has that peace that God made her and self-confidence that I never had at her age. I learn a lot from her.
What if we chose to approach strangers instead of avoiding them? What would change? How would we change? How would the places we go change?
Yes, we will probably get rejected sometimes. Like the time I was in the airport and turned to the lady and asked where she was flying to. She replied "Why are you asking?" I replied that I ask everyone. Then, she said, "Well, I'll just let you do all the talking then. Where are you going?" She reminded me of a facebook stalker at that moment and it gave me the creeps because of her tone. So, I replied I was going to Maryland and then turned around. I then asked the man in front of me who was heading to Chicago. He and I laughed about the cold and having to leave the warm weather of Florida. I can't remember, but I know he said something to me at the time that was helpful.
I had a rough year last year and it really shook my desire to talk to strangers and care. But, I can see now that the Lord has been using it to shake me free from my impulse and belief that I can please everyone. I can't. But, I can do whatever it is that God sets in front of me this day to do. I can reach out to people.
Ah, my ramblings... I hope this make sense!