Don’t chew with your mouth open. Don’t make a scene. Wear a jacket when you go outside. Eat your vegetables. Don’t cry over boys. Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t talk to strangers.
All things we’ve heard our mothers say to us before.
Last month, my friends and I took a weekend trip to New York city. It was a trip devoted to my now, sister in law. We bought the tickets very spontaneously while all having dinner one night. Someone mentioned it, everyone agreed, and we bought the tickets.
Word of advice for anyone thinking of traveling anywhere: just do it. If you have money for the ticket, buy it. Don’t wait. We definitely needed to save for the hotel and all the other things we did, but buying the tickets right away was a good push towards saving for everything else.
A couple years ago, when I traveled solo for the first time, I met someone at the airport. He was asking me questions and I was answering with one worded answers. After a short conversation, he said “did your mom tell you not to talk to strangers or something?”
Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but don’t talk to strangers? Really? How am I supposed to make new friends?
Going to New York, we heard a lot about the people there. That they are rude, inconsiderate, and to just stay away from the people and do your own thing. I think we all came in with the mindset that New Yorkers were people that just did not want to be bothered with.
People in New York city were actually quite the opposite of all of that. Most of the people that we met were kind, and always willing to help or have a little chat with us.
As soon as we walked off the plane, into the airport, and into the city, problematic things started occurring. From the bustling noise of busy people, to the confusing subway and train systems, we realized that in order to navigate through the life of New York, we really needed to be prepared. And we were. To a point. We had an itinerary written out, an app to navigate the subways, and a positive attitude to help us with our adventure.
But most importantly, we had the people that we met. Every time we got lost in the subways, or couldn’t figure out the streets, there was always someone who helped us find our way. We just had to be open to it. It forced many of us to get out of our comfort zone, to get out of our bubble, and to speak to people we maybe wouldn’t normally speak to.
It’s interesting how many times I’ve read about encounters Jesus had with people, but I gave less attention to the encounters that the people had with each other. Sometimes we think that all we need is Jesus. And that may be true, to a certain degree, but I believe God gave us people for a reason.
This experience reminded me of the day Jesus was going to have Passover with his disciples. His disciples asked Him where He would like for them to prepare the Passover. Jesus said, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.” (Mark 14:13). If I were one of the disciples, I would think, “uhh, Jesus. Can you be anymore vague? What does the man look like? When will he be walking in the city? Where will he be going? Can you just give me the address of the place, please?”
There are many times in my life when I feel like my answered prayers are vague. Like, I would just like a solid answer. But I guess this is where obedience, trust, and faith plays a role.
I think this is also where people play a role. It’s as if Jesus was trying to show the disciples that they need people. This man that they were waiting to meet in the city had something that they needed. Who knows how long they waited for him. Five minutes? Five hours? Either way, they waited for this person. They followed him. And they came to the place that Jesus wanted them to be.
God uses people. Whether it’s to teach us something, to lead us, or just to help us along the way.
I realized this even more when I was in New York. It doesn’t matter how independent I think I am. How capable I think I am. How self- motivated I think I am. I can do nothing without Jesus, and his people.
Meeting a man from England who missed his subway stop because he was chatting with us. We reminded him of his daughters.
Speaking to a Russian lady in her native tongue and seeing her face light up when she found out we were Russian.
Making small talk with all the baristas and waiters.
Being invited to a Superbowl party by firefighters.
Seeing a marriage proposal and then being asked to take pictures of them.
Talking to almost every cop that we saw.
Little interactions like these, are what made the trip memorable for me.
My prayer for all of you today, is that not only do you begin to appreciate everyone in your life, but you begin to be that person for someone else.
I’m the last person to teach you about letting people help you. I hate asking for directions. I hate asking for help. I always want to do things on my own. But I’m learning, just like some of you, how to break down the wall of self-sufficiency and allow God to work through people. Life is so short, and Jesus is too beautiful to live your life closed in a bubble of insecurities and fears.