Ask them why

We live in a world today where most of us can acknowledge that we are self-absorbed, yet we do not know how to fix it. We think that we are friendly, we know a lot of people, and have many friends, yet most of our conversations with said “friends” barely even scratch the surface level. Our culture is frighteningly trained with such a lack of encountering the people right in front of us, and most people would consider it normal, many would even call it friendly.
Recently, I noticed this problem was through some conversations with friends over the weekend, as we were discussing how we can better encounter people and invite them to a life with Christ. We talked about how almost every time we talk to people thought the day, we have the same conversation: we ask how they are, they say “good”, they return the question, and we give the same response, somebody continues, probably by saying a random fact about the weather or their classes, we awkwardly transition into a way to exit the conversation, and go about our days thinking that the conversation we just had was perfectly friendly and normal. As we brought this conversation into a group of other friends the next day, it was disturbing how universally relatable this conversation was to our fellow students as well. We live in a culture where we convince ourselves that all a conversation should be is a few words back and forth to each other, without any real substance, and without any vulnerability or actual sharing of lives and hearts. To actually know people and to truly encounter the people in front of us, we cannot simply ask them how they are and expect that that is all required to have a relationship with others. We realized that we must instead continue the conversation, and simply ask them “why?”when they say they are doing well, and take genuine interest in them and their lives.
The next day, I decided to put this into practice and headed to the coffee shop in the morning, determined to encounter people and ask them why they said they were doing good, or what they were excited about, or what they were just waiting for someone to ask them about so they could share a part of their lives. The barista asked for my order, and after giving it to her, I asked her how she was doing. Before I even had a chance to ask her why she said she was doing well, she had already turned around to get my coffee - clearly in a rush, yet there was nobody else in line, or even in the room for that matter. As she handed me my drink, I was about to tell her I hoped she would have a wonderful day, or something else kind to show her the love of Christ, but she did not even look me in the eye, and again, continued to work. This saddened me, because all I wanted to do was encounter her and see just a little piece of her heart, but because of how we are today, this was not something natural to people. We are so used to not being vulnerable, giving blunt responses, thinking of how we can leave the conversation so we can continue our business, saying what we want to share because we do not want to listen to others because we only want what is convenient to ourselves, because we are all self-absorbed.
A friend once said to me that in the present moment, the most important person in your life is the person right in front of you, and by living in that reality, I found that it is so much easier to encounter others, and in doing so, think of myself less.