Thursday, February 10, 2011

The chance to be friendly

A heavier-set fellow with a bright red sweater and energetic blond hair moved about the banquet hall. Eight months ago, I had met him at a Nationals baseball game with our lab's "Young Professionals Network." What was the chance that "Sam" would remember me? I debated whether I should say hello to him.

At the game last May, he had come by himself, and indicated that he knew very few colleagues after recently starting to work. I'd had a choppy but persistent conversation with him then. By now, maybe he had gotten to know more colleagues and was less "on his own." Then again, he appeared to have come to this large lunch gathering by himself. Maybe he would appreciate if someone like me reached out to him.

A Gospel choir sang loudly, followed by an exuberant historical reenactor. If I tried to say hello, Sam might not even hear me. He might be caught by surprise. He might not understand me. We might try to prolong the conversation but not know what to say. He might feel as though I was only saying hello because I was feeling sorry for him and feel badly about that.

I watched Sam finish his lunch, then move on to dessert, and to a cup of soda. If only he had already left, it would have solved my dilemma. (Since he wouldn't be there, I couldn't say hello.) But instead, I was the one to leave.

Walking back to my office, I realized that I hadn't been thinking ahead about being friendly when I arrived at this lunch gathering. Instead, I was mostly thinking about eating lunch as reasonably quickly as possible so that I would have less time to make up later in the afternoon. But being friendly to a stranger might have been the most meaningful thing that I would have done all day.

"Lord," I prayed, "I'm sorry that I might have missed a chance to be an encouragement to another. I'd like to do a better job at this. If You would like me to reach out to Sam, could You please help me to run into him again?"


  1. Sometimes reaching out to strangers is harder than it would seem...but such simple gestures mean a lot. I think it is likely that you will see Sam again.

  2. Interestingly, I saw Sam the next day at a colloquium. I reminded him about the baseball game and he remembered me. It was a fairly short but pleasant exchange.


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