Earlier this year I was reading a book by Fred Craddock, the famous preacher. The book was just a smorgasbord of stories that he collected over time. Not all of these stories had an overt meaning or purpose, but that wasn’t the point. The point was they were a story.
I read them because I like to use a good story here and there in my sermons, where appropriate to enlighten some part of the sermon, whether it be by analogy, example, or metaphor. I feel that the listener of the sermon can access the idea I am trying to get across better if I tell a story that deals in someway, it might not necessarily be overt, with the idea.
But I digress, many of the stories were about his family, and all of them were about his past, but the thing that intrigued me was how many stories Craddock wrote were interactions with people he had never met before. It could have been someone on a plane, or a checkout person, or someone waiting for the bus, etc. These were people who were fantastically new to Craddock and people that he would probably never see again.
It got me thinking…is this even possible in today’s world with people my own age?
When I walk around the TCU campus it is a revelation if I don’t see a solitary person who is not on their phone or who does not have their headphones in their ears. Of course I could make it extremely awkward by creating my own interactions with these people, but their entire attitude towards the outside world is one of indifference at best. I’m not to disturb someone on their phone nor do I dare pull out someone’s headphones and start blabbering in their ear.
Of course Craddock didn’t have to worry about his, but he didn’t force the issue with others either. In those stories in which he had exchanges with strangers, Craddock did not walk up to the person and start jabbering, he let the situation play out. No earbud pulling there.
The more I think about it though, the fact that these interactions can happen in this world is true. I still strike up conversations with people in the gym, I still have that time when I’m buying groceries that someone is running my items though the system (though there is the absurd self-checkout machine now…), even on that airplane. Strangers are all around that I can interact with. I just have to look for them.
It’s true that strangers are that…strange. They are different. I don’t know them. You don’t know them. We are taught as children to stay away from strangers, they might hurt us. This is true, but we have at least one thing in common. One thing that makes that person either my brother or my sister; they are human, and so am I. They are created in the image of God, just like I am. They have a story to tell me, a story to tell you, even if they have their earbuds in.
You just have to be open to it.