The audience of One is all inclusive. The new year will require us to address ourselves to strangers, or the old year will just repeat. It doesn’t have to be as radical as offering a shalom to a gang banger or pretending to be a Cowboys fan, but whereas Paul urges us to live peacefully with each other, and Christ commands us to love our enemies, Will Rogers may have brought it closer to home with his quote, “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t yet met.”
Meeting people, face to face, is not just the realm of retail clerks and cab drivers. It is very likely each of us has a daily opportunity to say ‘Hello”, or “How are you?” to an angel unaware as we go through our day. I took a workshop once where the goal was to circle a room of strangers and pass on the greeting, “Everywhere I look I see the face of God.” It took more faith with some faces than others, exposing my cultural shallowness like a price tag hanging from a three piece suit. Now not many folks would catagorize me as an outgoing person, but occasionally a spirit of generosity overtakes me and I realize I do have an interest in other people. It’s almost an out of the body experience as I listen, however briefly, to another person’s anecdote or perspective.
Scripture says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” The implication being we can hear from God, even in our ordinary lives. Maybe we could practice by taking time to listen to each other. I have been chastised repeatedly for moving my lips while another person is talking as if I’m revving my engine for my next turn around the track. It may seem silly that I have to give myself mental pointers to keep my mouth still and maintain eye contact while engaged in conversation but it’s no different than a golfer mentally mumbling ‘head down, hands still’ while beginning a backswing. New habits require work, focus, intent, and ultimately reward.
We’ve all seen movies where the hero is spared a certain death because of some seemingly random kindness bestowed on a bit character earlier in the story. The drama of our lives might not include baring knives on a gang plank but an extra handshake here and there could at least put our story line into the divine comedy genre. The new year brings many self improvement suggestions. A popular one is to improve our vocabulary by learning and using one new word a day. I’d augment that to say if we learn, and use, a stranger’s name the world would become a friendlier place, even if takes all year to do it.