Last week, at one of my favorite coffee shops, from one of my favorite people watching spots, I sat. I’ve always loved to people watch. But as time has gone on it’s become harder for me to do. Because I can’t help but see straight through some of the people I have had the privilege to lay my eyes on. I see more hurt than I ever have before. I see greater division. I see loss in people’s eyes. And distance. No one seems to want to come in contact with others anymore. I sense the mindsets that some people probably live in. Ones of anxiety and fear. Hopelessness and insecurity. Depression lingers on every corner. I imagine how trapped people might feel. The struggles they face in figuring out who they are. And what they may be called to.
I try to step in their shoes — really curl my toes in them. And stroll.
My people watching last week was no different than other instances, except that my eyes felt widened. Eager to see things I could be actively praying and believing for in this city.
On my way into a store I had my eyes set on going straight into, a young women not much older than I interrupted my mission. She told me her name — Sarah I believe it was.
Moments before, I was about 20 feet from her when she looked straight my way. I knew exactly what she wanted from me. And from past experience I almost always try to avoid hearing what these particular people have to say. But this day, I gave Sarah a chance.
Sarah identified herself as a member of Greenpeace and took 2 or 3 minutes to tell me about the amount of glaciers melting in the arctic and the danger that Narwals are facing because of it. We connected and laughed over Mr. Narwhal in the movie Elf because that was the extent of my knowledge on the animal. I went on to agree with her there indeed is power in numbers and that voices should be heard. She asked me how I felt about this election and I offered her my very unpopular opinion. She continued to tell me of the things Greenpeace is currently working to accomplish, their efforts, and their successes. Then she nicely extended an invitation for me to be their newest member.
I thanked her, offered my politest decline, and promised to check out their website (which, mind you, I did do).
I’m so thankful I gave Sarah a chance. I’m so thankful to have met her and heard what she found important to say. You see, she was brave. She took a step of faith. And I admire her for that.
It wasn’t clear at first but, right below the surface, we had a lot of things in common.
We both are passionate.
We both stand in our own different ways for the things that matter to us.
If anything, we both live and breath.
And as I found and situated myself in my favorite people watching spot in my favorite coffee shop, I couldn’t help but think about that.
It opened my eyes to all the possible connections I can make or could have made with people. If only for 2 minutes.
Human interaction. Laughter. Fellowship and sharing. Rawness in a world that has hardened. Hearing what people have to say — what’s on their hearts and their minds.
I want more of that.
If only for 2 minutes.
I don’t want to miss out on opportunities because I’m thinking about myself or I’m in a hurry.
I want to slow down — be still.
I want to feel nearness — and listen.
I want to give more people like Sarah a chance — ones I think I have nothing in common with, ones that look like I have nothing to offer them, ones I would normally not bother to listen to. Those are the people I want to interact with. Those are the people I want to interrupt me in the middle of the day. Those are the people that I want to make me a bit uncomfortable.
Jesus never hung around perfect people — Tax collectors, prostitutes, murderers, and “sinners” alike were all among his company. He always seemed to be in the midst of the Pharisees and those greatly despised.
In Mark 2 the Pharisees so boldly asked Jesus’ disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” The Message version translates the Pharisees asking: “What kind of example is this?” Jesus, overhearing, so brilliantly replies: “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit.”
I most definitely wrote that “Jesus drops the ultimate mic” in the margin of my bible by this passage.
Let’s get practical.
I’m not saying you should ditch all your friends and start hanging out with murderers.
Understand it’s so vital to have like-minded people in your life to surround you, to keep you accountable, to lend support , lift up your hands when you get tired, and to love on you.
But I am saying to get out of your comfort zone. Branch out a little. Reach out to someone you normally wouldn’t think to talk to or make plans with.
If you want to be more like Jesus, act like him.
Do the things he did in the best way you can.
Hang out with “tax collectors” and “sinners.”
Show people Jesus through your actions. Smile at them. Take time getting to know them. Extend warm welcomes. Invite them places. Share stories with them. Express authenticity.
Just love on people.
If only for 2 minutes.
It’s the simplest way they will come to know Jesus.