If we are lucky in life, we know someone like my friend. His interest in other people is genuine, not manufactured. While we joke he’s never met a stranger, the truth is he finds people and their personal stories absolutely fascinating.
We found ourselves talking about how the night before I’d watched as a lady, with a cell phone cradled up to her ear, waited in line, checked out, and walked out the store without ever saying a word or acknowledging the young clerk behind the counter.
My friend shook his head.
Most people, understandably, would point to the actions (or inaction) of the customer as the key event in the story. To my friend, however, he recognized how the customer might have just missed out on an opportunity to meet an interesting person. He believes everyone has a story — if we’ll just take the interest to listen.
In today’s world, where we all are so seemingly busy, are we insulating ourselves from the joy of meeting new people as we hide behind a wall of technology?
Today, while walking through a department store, everywhere I looked I found people with cell phones pressed to their ears. The experience brought back memories of how recently, while walking through a beautiful big city downtown, everyone was seemingly deeply engaged in a conversation with someone at the other end of a cell tower. Oddly, I felt nearly invisible to these busy people while walking the streets of their city.
There is an old saying, “God gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.”
Fortunately, my friend learned this lesson early in life. With his bright eyes, you feel as if you are the only person in the world that matters when he speaks with you. This is truly a gift – to the recipient.
I know another friend whose family teases him about him never meeting an older person he’d didn’t befriend in a matter of minutes.
“Whenever we find him missing,” said his wife, “we always find him off talking with an older person or senior citizen he’s never met before.”
Fortunately I’m learning from my friends. While I believe many of these people are born with special gift, I think we can all improve our lives by taking time to slow down and speak with others. Can’t each of us afford to invest a couple minutes a day reaching out to acknowledge or meet a new person?
Let’s learn from these talented people. Everyone has a story to tell, advice they learned, lessons to share. And people, for the most part, are welcome to meeting others and making new friends.
Learning to genuinely like people, while a gift, is a skill each of us can develop. Imagine how colorful life is for those who are out there meeting and learning from others. And the good news is, the rest of us can play too. And the first step is as easy as is learning to use our two ears and one mouth in the correct order.
Woolsey is publisher of the Times-Georgian.