When Kroger introduced me to the self-check-out grocery line, I was instantly filled with amazement and joy. What a wonderful idea! I no longer had to deal with moody cashiers, incapable bag boys or the anxiety I experienced when I thought the conveyor belt wouldn’t stop in time. All I really wanted was a nice, quiet grocery store experience, without the interruption of unnecessary human interaction.
This morning, as my RISE friends and I were walking around downtown Harrisonburg and focusing on how to connect with this community, I realized that I have been living a self-check-out lifestyle. I’ve been avoiding authentic connections. I order things online and try to accomplish tasks on my own. Sometimes, I see people I know and quickly turn the other way so I don’t have to engage in useless amounts of small talk. I am friendly to strangers but never stop to think about who they are, what their stories are, or what types of struggles they may have in their lives. I have been solely focused on myself and maintaining my own sanity.
I decided to make a change during our Worship Walk. As I passed by strangers on the streets of downtown Harrisonburg, I began to focus on each individual. I said a silent prayer for each one, and began to wonder where they stored their hope, where they felt their pain. All of a sudden, I was invested in these people that I had never even spoken to. I wanted to be a part of their lives. I wanted to connect with them. It was refreshing and terrifying all at the same time.
The incredibly convincing, selfish voices inside of my head wanted to know why I thought I had enough time, energy and love to connect with these complete strangers. Do you know how many strangers are out there? I’m way too busy focusing on my own insufficiencies to bear the burdens of people I don’t even know.
But then I began to wonder what it would be like to actually help bear those burdens. I thought about what would happen in my life, and in the lives of others if I stopped running from the pain around me and I met it head on. What would it look like to constantly and continuously share the everlasting grace and love of a God who never becomes weary?
So I tried it. I smiled at everyone. I said good morning over and over. I felt like I was really trying to connect with people. And then I forgot. I became irritated, or distracted and I lost my connection mojo. I realized that this whole “living a life of relationship” is hard and I’m horrible at it. I’m not used to living an outward life, I’m used to living a life based on my own needs and desires. But the cool thing is, I think I can get better at it. The more I practice connecting, the better I become. The more time I take to pray and focus my energy on others, the more I like myself and the world just seems like a brighter place. Maybe today, I can focus on myself for 2 less minutes and focus on others for 2 more.
I’m sure I will continue to check myself out sometimes (ha!). But I can’t begin to comprehend how much joy would spread, if we all committed to checking out each other instead.