Community with Strangers

nathan-dumlao-544926-unsplash.jpg

Community is so important. Some of us need that go-to friend, and others have a few we walk through life with and keep close. We all have those people we call on when something noteworthy happens in our lives. When we go out on a date with that guy for the first time, when our little one begins to do ‘that new thing’, when we hear the news that we’re pregnant or when we discover we’ve landed the job. We run to those closest to us – those we’d call our inner circle as we move through life’s noteworthy moments. Community in friendship, to me, it’s one of our greatest earthly gifts…

but lately, I’ve realized the importance of having community with strangers.

What? You might ask. That sounds a bit contradictory. A stranger is someone you don’t know, how can you have community with them? Well – it is absolutely possible, and I’d venture to say, it’s crucial to living wholeheartedly…we just have to make the decision to pursue it. In today’s day in age, we’re all searching to connect in some way. We run to platforms like Instagram and Facebook to engage with people, some whom we’ve never even had personal, face-to-face interactions with.

We’ve become deeply connected to someone’s representation of themselves but are we losing sight of the real humans right in front of us?

Each day we live our lives and physically encounter individuals face-to-face we’ve never met whom we have no earthly idea what’s going on behind the scenes in their life.

The barista at your local coffee shop, the lovely gal who bagged your groceries at Publix, the man you rode the elevator with on your way to your doctor’s appointment… 

We can easily choose to tune out, disengage and detach from the opportunities we’ve been given to choose what matters, to bring life to the ‘strangers’ we meet every day. Or we can choose to enter in, look into someone’s eyes, engage and give what we have with all of our heart.

We must make the decision to see beyond simply looking.

You see, I believe this is one of the ways the world can begin to make a comeback. I think it can take on many ways, shapes and forms, but one thing is universal - every human being we encounter is worthy of being seen, acknowledged and engaged with.  

For connection to be built, it must be initiated. We have to let go of our own agendas and realize that the people we meet have been intentionally placed in our path. This takes allowing our hearts to become more involved in those moments where our preference might be to coast by.

We’ve been given an opportunity to wake up each day and offer good to every single human we encounter. It could be in the form of a simple, but honest compliment, it could be that you take notice of a small task your co-worker did without being asked, it could be acknowledgement of someone else’s pain, it could be remembering someone’s name or it could simply be a genuine smile.

Each time we initiate a thread of meaningful connection with someone new, I believe something supernatural occurs. That might sound a bit dramatic, but I really do believe when we can begin to look up and see those in front of us through the lens of empathy, acknowledgment and love…we not only find purpose, but we gain understanding. We have something to give to everyone we encounter which costs us absolutely nothing at all.

To cross over from simply tolerating someone to understanding who they are is a gift always worth the investment.

Some things don’t matter much. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person’s heart—now, that matters. The whole problem with people is...they know what matters, but they don’t choose it...The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.
— Sue Monk Kidd 

Many of us keep this gift locked up inside building walls of security around ourselves. as we move through our day We can fall into operating out of an egocentric mindset causing us to live withdrawn from the world around us.

‘Don’t make eye contact.’

‘Don’t speak unless spoken to.’

 

Sadly, we’ve come to a place where some individuals are deemed ‘more worth our time’ than others. But let’s be honest, the status game isn’t getting anyone ahead or serving humanity in a positive way. I see it all the time living in a city where this is pretty prevalent, and quite honestly, I have to guard myself against either falling into it or becoming completely cynical towards it. I know status may always be around in the world, but let’s take a moment to take notice of what makes us view someone as more important than someone else? Is it their social standing, their accomplishments, who they know, how many followers they have, what they do…does any of that really make somebody any better?

 No. The answer is no. None of that matters at all.

No one is more worthy of love. No one is more important. No one is more deserving. No one is any better.

No one.

Everyone is equally worthy of love. Everyone is worth our time. And everyone is worth our full attention.

Everyone.

What if we saw the world through a lens which allowed us to see each person set in our path as an opportunity to give to and receive from? I’ll be honest, talking to people on flights is not my forte. But I’ve met some of the most incredible individuals in circumstances where I had to force myself to engage. In the day to day, I’ve gained so much from those I never in a million years would have picked out from a crowd and thought I’d have a connection with.

Sometimes it’s not convenient or easy, but it’s always worth it.  

It can start with a question, a compliment, simply pushing past the ‘good’ we receive in response to a generic ‘how are you?’.

There’s certainly a need in life to go deep with people, but we have an equally important need to stay open to building meaningful connections with the strangers we meet face to face every day.

We must first recognize another’s soul and then choose to honor the worth in each person we encounter before we can experience meaningful connection.  

To live from a place of freely giving requires us to show up and allow our hearts to be constantly involved in our interactions. One of the greatest ways we can spend our moments is by speaking life to someone we hardly know.

I believe it leaves us both changed…for the better.

It’s a simple truth, but maybe one you needed to be reminded of today. I want to choose what matters more.

At the end of the day, it’s people…always. People matter more than anything else.

At the end of our days, I hope we’ve given all we have. I hope we’ve seen the worth in everyone we’ve encountered. I hope we haven’t deemed anyone as more important than another. I hope we’ve received in some way. I hope we’ve felt deep connection, maybe even with multiple strangers. You’ll see, these threads of connection are building in us a community we may have never thought mattered much at all but one we’ve desperately needed all along…