When I taught high school, I usually had freshmen. On the first day of school many of them didn’t know their new classmates. I would tell my homeroom that their fellow students were as nervous as they were. I encouraged them to be the first to say “Hi” and introduce themselves. This week I made it a point to speak to several people that I ordinarily wouldn’t talk to. No, not people I don’t like, but people in service roles who ordinarily aren’t spoken to, such as store clerks, librarians, and people taking our orders over the phone. In some cases my overture led to a rewarding conversation—even an invitation to take another look at the Catholic Church, in keeping with our recent focus on evangelization.
Jesus was not shy about addressing strangers, even those people his culture frowned upon. He asked a Samaritan, a woman at that, for a drink of water and struck up a conversation with her. The upshot was that her whole town became his followers. Then there was that scoundrel Zacchaeus. Jesus sought him out among the leaves and invited himself to dinner. We know how that ended.
Speaking to others shows that we recognize them as fellow human beings, not machines. When we’re willing to spend time with others, we’re telling them that we respect them and that they are worthwhile. For some people, our interacting with them might be the only nice thing that happened to them that day, or at least a bright spot in their day. It’s a blessing.
So don’t be afraid to speak to the person in the pew with you or the neighbor down the street. They may be glad you did. You may be glad you did!
Has an encounter you initiated ever resulted in a pleasant surprise?