The city’s streets are crowded as I briskly move toward the Starbucks on the street corner, pushing myself through the biting cold. I pass people I’ve never seen, astutely clad business people beside the bedraggled homeless asking for a few bucks for their bus fare. I clip along at a quick pace, seeing these faces as scenic additions on my journey through the urban terrain. I say hello to no one, order a cup of strong coffee, and nestle into the corner of the store. People are coming in and out, but my headphones are in and my head down and under no obligation to give so much as a slight head nod in their direction.
I’m an expert at people avoiding. I’ve got the hermit lifestyle down. See someone you only sort of know at the grocery store? Keep your eyes fixed on those frozen veggies, as if deciding between peas and broccoli were an agonizing task, until they turn the aisle and are safely out of sight. I’ve got a great list of excuses for declining party invitations (no one needs to know that my prior commitment was an urgent date with Netflix), and I consider the day a success if I don’t have to say anything to anyone until well past noon.
My little town of 2,500 is working hard to break me from these habits but I continue to stay strong in my introverted ways.
How is someone who is this anti-social supposed to follow a God whose greatest cause is people? How is someone who can barely work up the energy to say hello to another human learn to love them as herself?
Don’t get me wrong, I have my people. You know, the friends and family on the “safe list”, whose presence feel like a warm bath to soak my drained and dried up soul in at the end of a long day. The people I call (ok, text) if things are rough, who I’ll hang out with just for fun. I’ve got my people. All two of them.
Along with my avoiding skills I also have perfected my ability to immediately pick out any and all idiosyncrasies a person might carry and promptly be annoyed by them. I mean, why is she talking so loud, and why does he always bring up that topic, and why do they get so worked up about such little things, and doesn’t anyone know about personal space?
You can see I’m doing an excellent job in the loving others department.
Last Sunday I stayed home from church. I was up and dressed and ready to go, and then I sat back down on the couch and couldn’t will myself to get out the front door. My husband was gone and the idea of having to walk through the parking lot and into a bustling foyer and find a spot in the middle of a pew and, worst of all, stick out my hand and smile during meet and greet, was too much for me to bear. If I had to say hello to one more person I literally wouldn’t make it.
In college my roommates (hand selected based on their mutual disdain for human contact) created a slogan. Characters welcome. After four years of class after class with weird people saying weird things we had two options remaining. Curl up in a ball in the corner of our dorm rooms and stay there till graduation, or embrace the oddities and eccentricities and quirks that lace the souls of man kind.
We chose the latter.
Rather than being annoyed by the classmates and teachers who thought and spoke and acted in such unusual (to us) ways, rather than shutting them out of our lives because of their unique ways of approaching life, rather than succumbing to the hermit lifestyle that we were all prone to we decided to appreciate the vibrancy and flavor they brought to our days. We decided to enjoy the plot twists their peculiar, and often absurd, personalities added to our story. We decided our lives would be richer with them at our side.
(Spoiler: Two of us even decided to marry said characters.)
“You are to pay special attention to those who by accidents of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into closer connection with you.” -Saint Augustine
I am an introvert. Curling up on the couch will always be my favorite option. I will always opt for avoiding the grocery store and coffee shop for fear of running into people I might have to talk to. I will always be highly in-tune to all the personality traits that might possibly be seen as annoying or weird. But I won’t let these – my own idiosyncrasies – keep me from coming along side my fellow humans and sharing part of their journey as we walk through life.