Loving Strangers Well
Stop smacking your gum.
Could you please cover your mouth when you cough?
Watch where you’re walking.
Please turn down your phone’s brightness settings.
Stop messing with your hair.
Learn how to drive.
These are common phrases I say in my head to strangers on a regular basis. Not to excuse my thoughts, but I must provide a disclaimer: I am ultra sensitive to sounds, smells, and sights. I have slight ADD and I am easily distracted. Which means, I’m easily frustrated. Another disclaimer, while we’re on the subject: I like things to be perfect, to be excellent. When things don’t occur perfectly (the way I think they should), I tend to react.
You see, I used to struggle with anxiety. It was bad. Anxiety and ADD don’t mix well. I think that is why I am so empathetic to some of my students and the real struggles they deal with. And when I cannot control things, i.e. other people, I have a difficult time. When strangers are doing things that I don’t like, or agree with, or that are distracting, I think not-so-nice thoughts.
Something I’ve been working on is loving others well, specifically strangers. Even more specifically, strangers who appear to be unloveable. The people with frowns or scowls on their faces. The people with loud coughs. The people with little awareness of those around them.
For me, this looks like smiling at strangers when I’m out for a walk. Asking the cashier how his day is going. Extending grace when someone is driving
like an idiot in a way that I have deemed reckless. Initiating conversation with the woman in line at the store.
Sometimes I am rejected by the stranger I tried to talk to. Sometimes I am not met with a smile in return. And you know what? That’s okay. Because at least I tried to make that person’s day better by loving him/her the best way that I know how. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. People matter.
How do you love strangers well?
I'm Ali. I write about my journey of living a full and healthy life with food allergies, overcoming the comparison trap, and cultivating authenticity.