The mall is full of “try to avoid” people. You know who I’m talking about. The kiosks are landmines of awkward encounters. “Excuse me, sir! Miss! Miss! Can I show you something?”
I had a new one, though, the last time I was there. A young, Mormon teenager made eye contact with me from 20 yards off, and I knew in that moment I was going to pretend I didn’t see him or engage in conversation.
For context, the primary reason I was walking in his direction was because I had two glasses of tea more than my bladder could hold. Needless to say, I was in a hurry. I also had a good idea of what he had to say.
Nevertheless, a part of me immediately recognized the nervous determination to do what he knew was uncomfortable but thought was right. He was locked in, and unless I blatantly ignored him, a conversation was about to happen.
I listened to his pitch about being a missionary and answered a few questions about myself. I tried to politely decline the request to come to my house to talk more. I was primarily concerned about making it to the bathroom, but I knew I couldn’t just shut the kid down.
Sure, an unsolicited introduction might be a little annoying to most, but the reality is another human being who didn’t exist in my life until that moment decided to walk into my story for a few minutes.
Life becomes much more interesting than frustrating when you think of it like that. Maybe it’s my extreme curiosity, but I almost welcome it these days.
I have zero interest in joining the Mormon church, but I couldn’t help but think about the fact that a random person, who was moments before just a part of the backdrop to my mall stroll, is now asking me if I know Jesus in front of an escalator and smoothie shop.
He and I may not agree on a lot, but I left that conversation with a little more respect for him and a lot more wonder about the human condition. Shouldn’t that really be the only point with most interactions?
Seek to understand. Grow in your awe and wonder of this thing we call life.
We’re not here to always be right but to be together in a meaningful way. I’m not so busy or so important to ignore any soul, as annoying as the encounter may seem at first on the surface.
I purposely try to have an open posture towards people, though some days I really don’t feel like it. I’m guessing that invites some of what I’m talking about. I’d rather be an easy target than a cold presence, though. People are just too valuable and interesting to act any differently.
Books I recommend: