In last week’s post I lamented the growing number of areas where we are losing the opportunity to interact with humans. I called it “I miss talking to strangers” because I’ve started to realise that human interaction, even when brief, is a precious thing that helps us all remember who we are. When convenient machines rob me of that, the loss is real. I really do miss talking to strangers.
In the days following the post, your comments got me thinking further: what about the opportunities that remain? Yes, our culture is shifting from conversation to convenience, but as long as there are other people, interaction will continue on some level. Is it possible that even while I’m missing the old social ways of doing things, I could also be missing chances to speak to the humans around me? It is, and I do. Too often, I miss talking to strangers, not because of machines and screens, but because I simply forget to see them.
There’s a lot of humans around, and I’ve got a lot on my mind. When I’m focused on the task at hand, it can be hard to remember that the person behind the counter is just that: a person. A totally unique creative marvel, reflecting the image of God Himself, full of storied history, passion, and dreams. I’m right when I lament the loss in replacing such wonders with cold machines, but I’m wrong when I treat the people who are still behind counters as if they are machines. I personally do this far more often than I’d like to admit, in spite of my own experiences behind shop tills and restaurant tables, often being spoken to as if I was just another robot servant like Alexa or Siri. I don’t want to treat people that way.
So I’m trying to keep my eyes open. I’m trying to see that the strangers I talk to on the phone and behind windows in waiting rooms and behind counters and serving tables are real, live people just like I am, and they deserve recognition as such. Yes, our machines are de-humanising daily life, but there are still ways to push back. I can choose the queue with a person on the other end instead of a machine. I can wait a few minutes without looking at my phone or putting on headphones. I can offer a smile. I can make a simple comment to open the door for conversation. Even if they shut it, I’ve recognised them as a fellow human. Mostly, I can re-train my own eyes to see people as people, and treat them accordingly.
I saw you talking to an everlasting wonder
Holding conversation with a miracle and marvel
You were walking down the street
Allowing eyes to meet
And seeing that the stranger
Is a person
I don’t want to miss talking to strangers.