Maybe you know what I’m talking about?
It used to be that I could walk by certain people while barely noticing them. I might give a head nod. Or offer a “what’s up?” Or sometimes ask but not really want to know “how are you?”
I’m learning that the distance I keep between myself and you is difficult to maintain after hearing your story. A shift a happens. You are no longer a passerby to me. You are someone I know. I no longer see only your face. I see a name and a story behind the face.
Two people I casually pass by on a regular basis at the gym told me their story this week. Up to this point, our relationship has been strictly business. If we said anything to each other it was, “Hey, anybody using this bench?” Or “how many sets do you have left?” Occasionally, we might even leave the gym with a “I’ll see you guys.”
Not any more. I know their stories, now.
One is a story of growing up in foster care. He’s never met his parents. He lives with a man he calls his uncle. He works full-time at a warehouse. When I asked who he feels has his back in life, his answer was, “No one.”
The other is a story of being too late. He served in the military and received a medal of honor for his bravery. He is a successful entrepreneur in the music/entertainment industry. He has traveled the world and earned an exceptional salary. He’s a proud daddy of 6 year old son. A couple months ago, his wife filed for divorce. He told me, “I made some mistakes. I moved our family here to make things better. I was just too late.”
There’s something about hearing your story that changes our relationship. I feel invested. It’s not enough to say hi. I experience a nudge to become a part of your story. For the good.
As a human, I think Jesus experienced the same thing. He passed by thousands of people. It was the people whose stories he learned that changed his relationship to them. He healed them. He set them free. He protected them. He loved them. For their good.
I wonder what would happen to our churches if we paid more attention to the stories of the people we sit next to each week? I wonder what would happen to our community if our churches listened to the stories of others in our neighbhorhoods?