Jesus answered: ‘Will you lay down your life for me?’ - John 13:38

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hello Stranger!

Talking to strangers can be a most delightful experience. It scares me a little to think that lil-o-me should say such a think, especially when I recall breaking into tears every time the teacher asked me for an answer in class, or the time when I ran away to escape being introduced to my parents' friends.... Intimidating experience? No doubt. Yet I've come to realise that talking to others; engaging them; building bridges, this is an art. Perhaps one thing that I’ve taken away after being in the legion for a while is learning how to speak up. Have you ever wondered why you have to make “… a substantial and audible report…” at every meeting. I mean why can’t we just write out our reports each week and submit them to the president; or better yet why don’t we have a blog for reports done. I mean it would sure save a lot of time with everyone reporting online. Yet we have this system; we bring back whatever we’ve accomplished for the week, and we present it to everyone there in a loud audible voice – guests/visiting legionaries/new faces/old faces/strangers. It’s not all that easy, and I think you guys know what I’m talking about :) In fact making a good report is tricky in itself, the handbook will have its guidelines, but the practical aspect always takes some trial and error. The report has to be both a sharing and an hmm… “report”; swaying too much either way leaves you with either a never-ending-story or a market report off BBC. In short the audience loses attention and maybe wants to hit you for taking so long or starts feeling uneasy because it feels like it’s in court. Well practice does make perfect, and the benefits are substantial. I’ve learnt how to express myself more clearly, make better presentations (ppt, class stuff, speeches…), be more sensitive to my audience, and yesh… learn how to talk to strangers (its still a struggle, but hey at least now I know I can).

The secret? There is no secret really. After a while you realize people are messes (like you), not that we should all be mopped up and thrown away, but well everyone has silly insecurities and is afraid of strangers; and needs to be reminded now and then. You really don’t have to be afraid because he/she is probably just as afraid of meeting you. Yet I’ve noticed this too, the closer the stranger is to God (whether they know it or not), the more at ease they are with allowing you to “intrude” into their space, or “intruding” into your space! End result – Respect; wonderful, open and light-hearted discussions about anything under the sun. The secret then is allowing yourself to be the child you hide; the tender child; the simple child you fear being. No one wants to laugh with a “scholar”, they may marvel at what you have to say, but at the end of the day, people only want to laugh/cry with the child in you. Give them the opportunity to be children too, be you. That’s the art then, learning to be you. And when the stranger is depressed, rejected and unwanted, remember too that, that’s when God holds them in special closeness. Those are your wonderful strangers; very easy to talk to because they are very close to God. Really! May our faith and love be real, the way He would want us to be.

The Rabbi asked his students: “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?”

One of the rabbi’s students suggested: “When from a distance you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep?”

“No,” was the answer of the rabbi.

“Is it when one can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?” asked a second student.

“No,” the rabbi said.

“Please tell us the answer, then,” said the students.

“It is, then” said the wise teacher, “when you can look into the face of another human being and you have enough light in you to recognize your brother or your sister. Until then it is night, and darkness is still with us.”

[An old Hasidic tale as related by Henri Nouwen]

1 comment:

Dom said...

Thank you for this Angie. The way you stop and talk with strangers impressed me from the very first few months that I got to know you.

Shall out your advice :)