I would consider myself a very loving person. To my family and friends, I am incredibly sociable and love spending time with them; however, I will admit, I have a dark side. I tend to not be interested in strangers. I travel a lot for my job and my days are filled with passers by that I don’t give a second look to. In the past I’ve even taken pride in how easily I can maneuver my body language on an airplane to ensure that no one speaks to me or engages me in conversation. I would tell people that this is because I get airsick, which I do, or migraines, which I get, or I’m an introvert, which I am, but if I’m being really honest, I just don’t feel like making friends with a stranger that I’ll never see again. When I wash my hands in a public restroom, I’ve always felt that there is no need to chit-chat. Let’s just wash our hands and leave in peace and I’m often bothered when someone tries to talk as I’m walking away. In reflecting on this behavior I’ve realized something: I’m kind of a jerk or in other words, I’m not very much like Jesus.
In the Bible we see all over where Jesus engaged strangers; the woman at the well in John chapter 4, Zacchaeus in the tree in Luke chapter 19. In Luke 10 with the parable of the Good Samaritan we see how two supposedly good and holy men passed right by the man who had been robbed and beaten, but the Samaritan stopped, took pity on him and cared for him. I’ve always thought myself the kind of person who would be the Samaritan, but would I? Is the person on the plane or in the bus, or at the restroom sink washing their hands, hurting, broken, bruised and battered on the inside and I couldn’t care less to say hello?
Does Jesus want me to be best friends with every person I sit next to on an airplane? Probably not. Does Jesus want me to shout how much He loves them at passers by? I’m thinking, not so much. Does Jesus want me to be open to new people, engaging and kind to a stranger so that IF He needs to move in them, He can use me – even if it’s just a kind word or genuine smile? Absolutely!
Today in the restroom there was an elderly lady washing her hands, she had hung her cane on the second sink and her stuff was everywhere. I was inconvenienced and forced to wait on her to finish. But she was elderly, so I smiled at her instead of acting impatient, which, let’s be truthful, if she had been a younger person, I may have acted. When she saw me, I smiled at her and she began hurrying to gather her things forgetting to grab a paper towel. Opposite to my normal personality towards engaging strangers, I reached out, grabbed her a paper towel and offered it to her. And then, my worst nightmare: Conversation. We talked for 5 minutes. I couldn’t get away from her. I didn’t want to. In those short few minutes I learned that she moved to California from the Philippines in 1986 and worked until she turned 71, she’s now 80, retired and far away from most of her children. She has 7. She was always afraid to learn to drive and she seemed a little lonely for her kids but uses public transit to get around. But no less than 5 times in that conversation she touched her chest and said, “But God is so good. As long as I have Him..” When we parted ways, I did the unthinkable, I asked her name and gave her mine and in return I got a gigantic hug from a sweet, loving little stranger. It made my day.
That sweet lady didn’t need me to hand her a paper towel today. But I needed her to remind me that sometimes people just need to tell someone how much they love Jesus. Sometimes people just need the smallest kindness of a stranger to remind them that God is still with them. Sometimes people just need us, Christians, the followers of Christ, the ones who bear His name to be engaging, to give them someone to smile at, or tell their hurts to so they feel a little less lonely. It’s the little things, like handing someone a paper towel that can brighten your day, and someone else’s.
I know I am not going to become an extrovert overnight, but I am challenged by my little restroom interaction to look people in the eye a little more, to change my body language on an airplane to at least look friendly so someone feels comfortable saying hello. I am challenged to change my behavior towards others one little thing at a time so that when Jesus wants to use me or bless me I am open and available.
“Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort.” – Humpry Davy (genius inventor)