Bring Joy to Strangers

My little guy is so happy almost all of the time, but he is especially happy around people. When we go out to the store, he watches everyone, smiling, waving, and saying “hi” as we pass. When he sees little kids he gets very excited and tries to talk to them. This is probably a common thing for most kids, and I am probably a little biased, but I think there is something unique about my son that I have noticed.

He picks people out.

One time in particular that I remember – I was having a bad day, feeling very isolated and lonely. So we went to the store to look. I pushed the cart around for awhile and finally deciding to head back out of the store, I pushed the cart to the front to put it away. We stood there for a second as I put his hat and gloves back on, when all of a sudden he flashed a huge smile and giggled. Not at me, but someone behind me, and much more enthusiastically than usual. I turned and there was an old woman using a walker standing on the other side next to the door with her handicapped adult son.

“Well, he’s a buster if I’ve ever seen one!” The woman yelled out. “Look at him, he’s smiling at my boy!” she told me. Her son standing next to her looked surprised, smiled back at him, and waved. We talked to them for a minute, said our goodbyes and went out to the car. But that moment stuck with me because he was so much more observant of the people around us than I was. I was there, feeling isolated and lonely, and he was there making friends.

His love for people fascinates me. He giggles and laughs to the lady in the wheelchair, and the tired-looking young woman. To the old man with a cane wearing a hat that says “Vietnam Veteran” and the employee working the cash register. He never had a “stranger danger” phase, he has always been friendly and (IF I let him!), would go to anyone. He has prompted the response, “you just made my day” more times than I can count.

I hope that he keeps this outlook because I believe it is one of the ways Christ calls us to love others. Most times I am too stuck in my own little world, feeling sorry about my situation and my life to see the people I am passing. Most times I am too awkward to start a conversation. But how often do I even look others in the eye? How many times do we see people in the store and purposely divert our attention so that we do not have to make eye contact? I’m not sure I want to know that answer. Especially when my almost one-year old does it boldly and on purpose. He is already challenging me to look up and outside of myself, and to give others the encouragement they need. Sometimes the answer to our loneliness is by reaching out to someone else, even a stranger.

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