Unabashed Friendliness

As an adult, I often find myself hoping my neighbors do not notice me when I am in my yard. This isn’t because I am entirely unfriendly, but I am just not a fan of the distraction. The shallowness of the typical neighbor-like conversations also turns me off. I can have only so much of the “wonderful weather we’re having” or “how about those Vikings?” type discussions. My dislike of these conversations leads me to keeping them short or not looking toward the neighboring yards. I hope that if my neighbors see I don’t notice them, they won’t try to engage me. My toddler, at times to my dismay, takes a very different approach.

This Is My…

My son is about 3 1/2 years old now, he speaks quite well and can communicate and understand complex concepts. When he sees one of our neighbors out in their yard he nearly always tries to say “hi-lo” to them. He will answer their questions and tell them about what he is up to in our yard. After these pleasantries are exchanged, my toddler inevitably begins introducing the neighbor to everyone else outside. “This is my daddy, that’s my mommy, this is my dog Wholter” and so on. It doesn’t matter how many times he has done this before, he nearly always does it. He also readily tells people about the sticks he is playing with and what they are. Sometimes they are a sword, a gun, or walking stick.

His willingness to engage with others can sometimes be bothersome for me. As I said earlier, I am not generally an unfriendly person. However, I do prefer to keep to myself. This is partly for efficiency because conversations about shallow or menial topics take time away from important things. Yet, it is also because I often fail to see the importance of people outside my family. I see them more as an annoyance I must tolerate, a hindrance to my daily activities. This thinking flies in the face of John 3:16, because people are the world God gave up His son for. Everyone is important, even the annoying neighbor that insists on shouting across his yard at me, attempting to make a humorous remark.

What I Must Practice

In light of John 3:16 and Mark 12:31, I need to do a better job of perceiving the value of my neighbors, and strangers in general. Being open and friendly with my family members has never been a challenge for me. I need to practice bringing that same effort and willingness to engage that I display with my family, to those outside my family. Individual people make up the world God created, and I need to value each and every one of them. This doesn’t mean I have to allow myself to get trapped in every conversation that comes my way. I should not place myself at the conversational mercy of the other person. Rather, I need to learn to see when an exchange might be important to the other individual. Then be willing to take a few minutes and give them my time and effort.

In Closing

My toddler son can teach me a few things about opening up myself to conversation outside my family. I can learn from him that I shouldn’t be trying to extricate myself from an exchange as soon as it begins. Which certainly distracts me from giving the other participant the attention they deserve. He can also teach me the happiness that can be shared in opening up and engaging in an honest, joyful way. Overall, his unabashed friendliness is a lesson for me in valuing others.

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