So I’m sitting in jury duty while I write this. I freakishly like jury duty. It’s a nice change of pace. It does seem to at least be trying to uphold ideals in our country of checks and balance. I have especially liked getting space to read, people watch and think with no interruptions or obligations.
I just had to go through security again after lunch break. In line with me was a man with a child about the same age as my daughter. The boy was “exploring” as preschoolers do and the poor man was just trying to get through the line & security. I turned to offer a smile of encouragement and offered help and was suddenly acutely aware that I wasn’t supposed to talk with him, or anyone else. He smiled back and thanked me for the help.
There are some good reasons for this prohibition on talking with strangers in the courthouse during jury duty. I can accept that.
It does however go against everything within me. People who know me tend to make fun of me a little for talking to just about everyone. I got to spend some time in Manhattan & without fail I had the most amazing conversations with people on subways. My husband would look on horrified that I was breaking the sacred silence of the subway and shake his head knowing at least half of the time I didn’t start it but participated willingly.
I view conversation as sacred. A way of declaring the humanity of myself and others. Looking someone in the eye as if they really mattered and choosing words, tone and body language that communicates worth. Conversations are truly invitations into holy moments.
What if we as Christians viewed every conversation in this way? As a sacred moment given by God? Certainly the dreaded “greeting time” in church would change. So would our interactions at the grocery, the bank and any other places we interact with people. (and yes, I still go into the bank so I can talk to a real person!)
It just so happened that this past week at church there was a guest speaker, a chaplain with prison ministries. What he shared was powerful. More powerful were the guests he brought, current prisoners on furlough or now released. They spoke of decades of imprisonment and bad choices. They spoke of God and Bible studies on the inside and longing to grow their faith once free. They also spoke of needing to be able to talk to other Christians and said aloud that they know people see them as scary or threatening. They never said the words “less than human” but that was certainly communicated.
I’ve heard this same sentiment from others once they learn I’m a Christian. Sometimes it’s racial issues, life choices or sexuality. There is a huge world of people looking for actual conversations. Ones that don’t condemn or judge but invite them and us into sacred space, holy ground where God already dwells.