Connectedness. Real, raw and human connectedness. It took a recent six-night and Wi-Fi-free hiking trip through the Abel Tasman National Park for me to re-experience one of life’s greatest pleasures: the meeting, and connecting of strangers.
“Stranger.” The very definition of the word heeds caution: unknown person. Call me biased, but I like to believe that on this far corner of His canvas can be found some of the most genuine and friendly people. We Kiwis (New Zealanders) are quite intrigued by “the other.” As is usual during our summers, such others frequent our local campsites, hiking trails and national parks - bringing exotic flavours and travel stories to delight our friendly souls. Long story short, I went camping over the summer and made friends with strangers. While this may sound like a classic camping experience, it got me thinking about a very fundamental truth of our Christian calling - to befriend the stranger.
The social-media entrenched society we live in today provides ample opportunity to find, connect with and befriend the stranger - hello world, let’s all be friends! The danger exits however, in a growing culture of inauthentic friendships. Are we really connecting in mind, heart and soul with the numerous contacts on our devices and media platforms? Are we so focused on the tiny screens we hold in our hands that we fail to stop and truly see, hear and feel the needs of those around us?
If we look at Christ as our leading example, we are presented with an image of authentic, human connectedness. Jesus talked to strangers. He ate with them, comforted them, encouraged them and He healed them. No Wi-Fi involved!
All it takes is that initial encounter. A smile, a nod, perhaps even a hello. In such a fleeting, ordinary moment we experience the extraordinary worth and dignity of the other. Hebrews 13:1 encourages us in saying, Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. The Lord is speaking of angels! Am I so absorbed in my social media scrolling, University assignments and catch ups with friends that I fail to look up and witness these so called angels placed along my path? Am I failing to authentically and reverently acknowledge the other in my day-to-day life? Such questions have been plaguing my thoughts lately.
While I consider myself a relatively friendly person, I recognize my limitations in seeking out the stranger, the other, the unknown. Hey if you want to talk, you approach me first! What the camping experience taught me is that more often than not the other is thinking exactly the same. My wants, my needs, my insecurities and my questions on life, are reflected in the eyes of the other. By taking the opportunity to greet the stranger, in making contact with those often surprised, scared, vulnerable, beautiful and God-crafted eyes, we are gifted with a mirror image; I am the other. The other is me. And we exchange a moment of pure humanness.
Peter Kreeft writes, The more divine you are, the more human you can be. I believe this is exactly what the Lord is calling us to ponder as we make our way through the uphill, downhill, plateaus and peaks of our days. The Lord acknowledges our pursuit for the divine life. He understands and accepts our humanness; our strengths, fragilities, passions, doubts, hopes and our dreams. For all of this He blesses us. As women of and for Christ, let us be fearless on our daily quest for beauty and Truth in all things. May we strive to achieve authentic, human connectedness with the angels He places on our paths.
Lord, open my eyes, ears and heart to the see, hear and feel the needs of those around me. Needs of those I am familiar with and needs of those I consider the other.
Lord, let me befriend the stranger.
Nicole Sequeira lives in Christchurch, New Zealand - home for the last sixteen years of her life. She is currently studying Spanish, Education and Sport Coaching at the University of Canterbury with the dream of combining travel, teaching and tea-drinking into a unique career at some point in the near future. Her passions include reading, hiking, cleaning and having deep and meaningful, technology-free conversations with friends, family and sometimes, strangers.