Saturday, April 14, 2012

I was a stranger and you welcomed me

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me" Matthew 25:35

If you've ever been someplace where you don't know anyone else, you know how tough it can be.  Feelings of loneliness and isolation can give way to feelings of despair and hopelessness.  The simple act of being welcomed by another human being, of finding a single friendly face in the middle of a sea of faces you don't know, can be a lifeline.  Here's a list of small ways to welcome the stranger.

1) Smile at every person you see.

A simple smile can communicate so much.  Never underestimate the value of it. It says "I'm glad to see you", "I'm glad you're here", and "I like you" without a single word being issued. When I was in my early 20's, I was shopping at Wal-Mart and I was stopped by an older woman I didn't recognize.  She said to me, "You! You're that little girl! I worked as a lunch lady for Ginnings Elementary. I served hundreds of kids every day, but of all of them you were the only one who smiled at me every single day." That smile meant something to her. It affirmed her worth and her value. I didn't remember her, but more than 20 years later she remembered me, and all because of a smile.

2) Find reasons to offer sincere compliments to people you don't know.

Pay attention to the people around you. Notice how they behave, what they wear, how they treat others. Somewhere in there is something you can use to compliment them, sincerely. Maybe the woman next to you is wearing a really pretty necklace. Compliment her and ask her about it. Maybe the man in the grocery line ahead of you is doing a really great job of handling two children. Compliment him and ask him about them. This kind of thing shows that you have taken notice of this person, builds them up, and opens the door for a conversation.

3) Make an effort to remember names and to speak them correctly.

There is no sweeter sound to our ears than that of our own name. It sends endorphins to our brain anytime we hear it being spoken.  Making an effort to remember someone's name tells them that you found them noteworthy and memorable, not just another face in the crowd.

4) Notice when someone around you may be in need of help, and offer that help.

Be observant of body postures, of red and puffy eyes, of someone walking by the side of the road in clothes obviously not geared for exercise, of someone whose hands are full and is struggling to open doors, and things of this nature.  Don't wait for them to ask for help, offer it. If someone seems to be having a rough day, offer words of consolation. You never know who you might be helping, and what the results are going to be. It might surprise you.

These things are simple, but very effective ways of connecting with other people.  You never know but that doing these things might save someone's life by stopping them from committing suicide. They take mere seconds in most cases, but those seconds can change the world.

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