When the going gets rough…

En route to Philadelphia for his cousin’s wedding this weekend, my husband called from Memphis. (Let’s all just ignore the fact that Memphis is not even remotely “en route” to Philadelphia from here.)

“We had lots of turbulence,” he reported. “Not the worst I’ve ever experienced, but enough that people were talking to each other.”

Enough that people were talking to each other.

Even though I’m the kind of person strangers always talk to on airplanes, even when I want to be left alone, he’s not and I knew what he meant.

It’s fair to say that when you’re in public, few things make you really take notice of other people. This is especially true of those who live in big cities, at least of those in the international cities* where I lived abroad during college. But it’s also true here in small towns. When we don’t know people, we don’t tend to interact with them.

Unless.

Unless something happens.

Turbulence on an airplane, or worse, cancelled flights.

A fire alarm unexpectedly going off at the library.

A downpour of rain stranding shoppers with carts full of groceries.

I’m sure you can think of other instances.

Is it when people feel stuck? Or vulnerable? Or annoyed?

Or simply when something interrupts business as usual?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

I suppose here's where I'm going with this:
Why not make interactions with strangers business as usual?

_________________________________________

* One time, riding in the tube in London, we were seated along the sides of the train and faced our reflection in the opposite mirror. To be funny, I started sneaking little waves at Jonathan in the reflection, and probably making some silly faces, too. After a few minutes, the man opposite us, whom I hadn’t noticed until that point, reluctantly and embarrassingly waved back at me, having assumed I was lavishing my attention on him the entire time.

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4 comments on “When the going gets rough…

  1. Liz's Dad says:

    I try to say hello to people passing by on the street or in a store or just about anywhere. Yesterday in a parking lot I watched a lady and a young (3-5 yrs) walking toward me. The girl had “sparkling sneakers” on and I wished I had something encouraging to say but the mother purposefully ignored me as most do. I especially like to get to know clerks at stores I frequent (yes, Gail, mainly Lowes) so I can interact with them later. Yesterday (at Lowes :>) ) a clerk I know asked me if she could use my list of products to show a new employee how to work the “Quote System” as he had just started. She told the young man that I was a patient person ( who me?? ). It gave me a chance to talk to man. And he looked familiar so I asked him where we might have meet. Finally I was able to ask him if he went to church. Not much, I know but a step.

    I think we should intentionally reach out to strangers. As Christians we are commanded to.

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Dad! Good examples from real life about why it is important to be patient with others. And I agree–we are commanded to.

  2. Darla says:

    First, Memphis—been there, done that. I don’t think it has ever been on the way to where I was going, but there I was. Now, to your question about why we talk to strangers sometimes and not others. I think there are situations that equalize us. All of a sudden, because of the situation we find ourselves in, we see others as more like us than different. They become more approachable and I find myself wanting to connect with them. I have found that most other people want to connect too. Of course, there is the occassional you-know-what. These experiences have led me to try and connect with another person when there are not extenuating circumstances and I have been mostly pleasantly surprised. It could be at the deli counter at Brogers, the check-out line at Balmart (!), the county park, pumping gas, the Pavilion, ETC. What is interesting to me is that I know I do this mostly when I am feeling good about myself and life. If I am in a bummer state, I tend not to reach out to others. And when I am in a bummer state, it is because I have not been reaching out to others. Go figure! Hope all is well with your family and that Clara Sophia (aka Little Bean) is continuing to bring you much joy and connection. Love, Darla

    • elizabeth says:

      This is such a great reflection. I especially appreciate your perceptiveness about how our own mental state or how we are feeling about ourselves affects the way we perceive others’ intrusions in our lives.

      Thanks for sharing!

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