A few weeks ago, as part of our Sunday School discussions with our class of 14 to 18-year-old’s we asked them to accept a challenge that we don’t ordinarily ask children and youths to do these days – talk to a stranger. I know, we’re living wild and crazy in this age of personal space, stay out of my bubble, child abductions and pervasive social media.
So let me back up for a moment and backfill this a bit. The challenge was prompted by our topic for that month which was “Becoming More like Christ” and as part of our ongoing discussions on being more like Christ we were encouraged by our leaders to follow the example of Christ which was reaching out to sick, the afflicted, the downtrodden, the friendless.
For our exercise we encouraged the youth to find these among their peer groups, particularly people whom they don’t have anything in common with or someone whom they may not normally talk to on a daily basis.
When they came back a week later, a few of them said that they were too afraid, they felt intimidated or were just too plan scared to approach and talk to a total stranger at school. This was the reaction that I expected because I can recall from my own youth times when I felt compelled to talk to a stranger just because I sensed there was a longing or a need there for human contact and yet I denied myself the opportunity to reach out and make a connection with another human being because it was outside of my comfort zone.
I was surprised when some of the youths actually followed through with the challenge. Some of them smiled and said hello. Others struck up an awkward conversation and still others found that they actually enjoyed getting to know someone who they thought might be interesting and realized after a brief exchange that they really were fun and appealing despite their initial impression.
In each of the youths who spoke to a random stranger they found that they rather enjoyed the experience and wanted to find more opportunities to reach out to others in a kind, compassionate way that affects both humans in the exchange.
The challenge with our youthful friends led me to find this short clip of an artist who is taking the uncomfortable interactions of complete strangers and turning into a work of art. What this photographer is doing is an amazing experiment in human interaction and one that quite frankly leaves a lasting impression on the soul.
What we often take for granted is the fact that no matter what our background, color, creed and affiliations, in the grand scheme of things we are still humans who need only a tiny nudge, an inkling of curiosity to discover that we are more alike than we know.
Will you take the challenge? Will you take a moment to make a connection with a random stranger to find common ground?