Is it just me, or do you agree that something valuable has been lost now that a huge portion of human communication is so impersonal? Are we forgetting how to relate to one another the old-school way: face to face and person to person?
The other day a man stepped into the elevator beside me. Even though I was the other passenger in the space, I moved slightly to make room. Then I said, "How you doing today?" I think it was this simple gesture that made what turned out to be a huge difference.
Rather than just silently facing the door, the man leaned against the side of the elevator, looked at me, and answered. We started a conversation. We continued talking after we reach the first floor and walked outside the building. The dialogue progressed to jobs and then family. He revealed that recently he had lost a son in a car accident. Another son was a passenger in the car and had survived.
My new friend was grappling with the overwhelming, crushing pain of losing a child while at the same time attempting to remain strong and stoic for the rest of his family. It's something I would have never known had I not opened the door to conversation.
Sometimes God puts people in our path for a purpose. In this case, it was for me to offer words of hope and encouragement to that stranger. What if I hadn't been willing to say hello?
I wonder how many of these experiences we miss because we make ourselves unavailable to human connection. How many times in the past year did you simply text a friend "Happy Birthday," or post on his or her Facebook page rather than taking the time to call and make real contact?
Maybe you are an introvert and the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger sounds nightmarish. How about resolving this year to simply focus on not repelling people who may want to speak with you?
Airplanes are the perfect place to try this out. There are generally three types of passengers on airplanes. First, there are the people who begin chatting before you can get your luggage in the overhead bin. No matter the length of the flight, you will know more about these people before you reach your final destination than you know about most of your relatives. All you have to do is be willing to listen, and keep an eye out for a chance to mention Jesus.
Next, there are the people who strike up a conversation right after the pilot announces the initial descent into your destination city. So, they are willing to talk with you – for 30 minutes or less. Maybe you will find out the reason for their trip, and offer to ask God's blessings.
Finally, of course, there are those who go to great pains to avoid eye contact or to make any gestures that might insinuate that conversation with you is acceptable. They have headphones, hide behind hoodies and sunglasses or busy themselves with electronic devices so they'll seem too busy to converse. At the very least, you can smile at them, right?
Your Words Can Make a Difference
I am not recommending that you annoy or disrespect people, but rather that you simply make the effort to connect with people around you. John 15:12 tells us "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you."
Mother Teresa said that the worst poverty of all is loneliness, the absence of love. If you see pain or hopelessness in someone's heart, there is a good chance your words of hope and encouragement will make a difference. Even when this is a sacrifice for you. Remember, "in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (Romans 12:5).
Pray this prayer: "Dear God, please show me the spiritual need of those I come in contact with. Give me a courageous, sensitive, and loving heart that will see people as You see them and love them according to their need."