Last week we started our Meet and Greets at Hickory Neck. I knew that I wanted to get to know the people of the parish in a more meaningful way than just shaking hands in the receiving line after church. And so, we are gathering in small groups of 10-12 people, and taking time to tell our stories. The gatherings have already been a tremendous blessing. I am learning about the varied ways that people found their way to Hickory Neck, their loves and passions, and their hopes and dreams.
What I particularly enjoy about the gatherings is the reminder of how powerful our stories are. Each person in our community has a unique story, with elements that are quite familiar to us, and elements that are totally foreign to us. I think that fascination with stories is why I have been attracted to efforts like Humans of New York or StoryCorps. Those efforts are hoping to capture the everyday nature of our stories, while demonstrating the powerful ways that we connect through our stories. Our stories have the ability to bring others joy, to elicit empathy, to bring us to tears, and to open up new worlds.
Too often, we are tempted to ignore the depth of those stories with strangers. We are busy about our business, trying to accomplish tasks, or stick to a schedule. In that routine, we forget that there are people all around us who have rich stories and whose lives may have something to teach us. From that man who snapped at you in line, to the child who fell asleep in school, to the mom out in public in her pajamas, to the teen engrossed in social media, each person has a story behind their behavior – and the story may be much different than a quick glance allows us to assess.
If you have not joined a Meet and Greet, I encourage you to sign up at church. In fact, even last night someone commented about how much they were learning about people they had known for quite some time. But beyond our work within the community, I invite you to start looking at those outside of our community with a different eye: the eye of someone who sees the unique and sacred stories we all have. I look forward to hearing how your encounters go.