Talking with Strangers


There is an attitude, a willingness, that I've tried to get better at in recent years: talking with strangers. Socializing with strangers is generally pretty far out of our comfort zones, especially for those of us that consider ourselves introverts. We spend most of our public time avoiding eye-contact, even checking our phones for no purpose just to ward off being put in a situation where one or the other feels the need to talk. Why has our society trained itself to escape interacting with strangers?

Avoiding strangers, I'm coming to believe, dehumanizes them. And, on the other side, noticing them is like offering a hand of friendship. I was at CostCo the other day, smelling a pineapple in order to choose the best one, when an older man came up to me and asked me how I knew which one to choose. So, we discussed it a little, and then both continued shopping separately. But that interaction made me feel so... human. It made me feel like I had a friend in the masses that noticed and appreciated me. And, in consequence, it made me want to make others feel that way.

I was sitting in a mandatory class at work the other day with some people I didn't know, waiting for it to begin. As we sat there in silence, all I could think of was how much I wished I could talk to them. I thought of how my husband never knows a stranger, and would come up with something to talk about right away. But for some reason, I felt intimidated. What was I afraid of? That they wouldn't want to talk back? Sure, that could happen, but I'd be willing to bet that they more than likely were craving to be noticed, asked about their opinion, and have a friend in the sea of unfamiliar faces, just like me.

I encourage you, along with myself, to start opening up to strangers. Make them feel human in public again by giving a smile or eye-contact as you walk past. Start a conversation with the lady that has a baby in her cart ahead of you in the grocery store. Bring up the crazy weather with that couple in the waiting room at the doctor's office. You never know what your little efforts could mean to someone, or how few people have noticed them lately. Beyond that, you never know if an opportunity for sharing the Gospel will present itself. Brave the awkwardness, open your heart, and talk with strangers.

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