No Stranger Danger

A few weeks ago I was at the house of a friend who is small and thin woman. She told me about a man who asked her for money outside the grocery store. She said she didn’t have any cash, but was afraid and didn’t know what to do. She asked me what I do in those situations, not sure if he had bad intentions.

I told her that I look right in the guy’s eyes and smile at him so he knows I see him and recognize him as a person. Then I say, “I’m sorry I don’t have any cash, but I hope that things go better for you the rest of the day. God bless you.” Then I walk in the store, even if I was actually walking to my car.

I explained to my friend that I felt that most people just need to be recognized as people just like us. Once I am back in the store I go and buy a couple of apples and some individually wrapped cheese and then I go back out if he is still there I give him the bag. I actually look around to find him because I want him to know I heard him. If he is gone I just take it home.

Most people asking for something in the grocery store parking lot are not trying to hurt you. Yes, someone could try and take your purse, but it is a risky place to do that with so many people coming and going from the parking lot. Mostly they ask there for that very reason, there are people to ask. But if you are someone who needs to ask strangers for help you are probably somewhat invisible in the world. What I mean is most people shopping don’t want to see those people so they avert their eyes or walk out of their way to avoid them.

My friend liked my advice and said she thought I might have an answer for her. Simply seeing the humanity in all people takes practice to overcome your own fears.

Today at church our minister Chris preached on this very same thing. Looking at people and recognizing them as humans no matter who they are. It was an interesting coincidence that it so exactly mirrored my conversation with my friend.

When Carter was little and I would take her downtown, when downtown was not quite as tony as it is now, she would ask me why I said “hello” to every person we passed on the street. I told her is was kind to look people in the eye and recognize them as my equal. I didn’t want to tell her then that it also was safer to look at people’s faces and that if you were nice to them first they were usually nice to you, but that was secondary to my greeting anyway.

My lesson was don’t be afraid of strangers. Most all of us just want to be seen and acknowledged. The worst thing someone can be is invisible. Just start with kindness. You just never know when you might be meeting Jesus.

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