When I was younger I had no problem looking people boldly in the eyes. Stranger or not, I could not dissuade from offering a smile—and sometimes, if you were lucky, even a snarky comment (children have no filter, remember?). In fact, I was so confident in my skills that it was a bit overwhelming.
There’s a beautiful period in life in which one cannot distinguish a stranger from an acquaintance, friend, or a loved one. It’s a brief dream, but all trust in humanity feels comforting. The world has not tarnished or maimed you, but leaves a lovely, refreshing taste on your tongue.
I reached about seven years old, and I was over it. I can clearly remember the exact event in which I lost all faith in strangers.
My parents had taken my brother and I to a local kid’s toyshop: ZainyBrainy. Yes, it was as vibrant, strange, and nerdy as it sounds. It was like the hipster version of Toys-R-Us, complete with a fully equipped learning center, Pokemon gaming tables, and, to my seven-year-old self’s impeccable delight—a fortress of Beanie Babies. I spent many hours of my childhood traversing ZainyBrainy for the perfect Beanie Baby with my kid brother, who was five years old at the time.
Upon walking through the door, I had lost my brother among a vast array of computer screens in the learning center. I assumed he was playing a video game, and went on my way. That’s the bliss of innocence: ignorance.
After picking out the ideal Beanie Baby (which was a long, extensive journey, trust me), I went to flaunt my prize to my brother. I found him playing a sports game on a decorated desktop near the back of the store. I tapped him insistently on the shoulder, saying something to the effect of: “that game suits you well” or “what a nice game!”
Michael turned around…except it wasn’t Michael.
Embarrassed and afraid, I sprinted the length of the store away from the mystery boy that was not my brother. And that was when it hit me: strangers are terrifying.
Needless to say, stranger danger was a pretty easy concept to my young mind. I was a shy kid after my brief shot at being a well-practiced, professional extrovert. I was very bookish—I even had those really wide-rimmed, round, wiry glasses.
Side note: being an introvert does not, by any means, translate to having lost faith in humanity…stick with me here.
Some us are completely stuck in that store, or that street crossing, restaurant, whatever—we’re still afraid to let down our guard and trust in our brothers and sisters.
Nothing should keep us from offering an open heart, translated through a friendly smile or casual wave.
Embarrassment. Grief. Distrust. Anxiety.
We, collectively as humanity, cannot deal with these things on our own.
Once we allow Christ to communicate to us through others, things begin to look a lot less bleak. God has ordained us with a purpose and place to carry out His work. He did not have to bless us with beautiful friends or family—it wasn’t an obligation or some natural right we conjured up…but He did.
“They might not need me; but they might. I’ll let my head be just in sight; a smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.”