Talking to Strangers: Favoritism Forbidden

Since I wrote a book on having great conversations (even with strangers), I put my own research to the test whenever I’m out in public. Yesterday, I stood in line with my daughter at the grocery store. But I had a problem:

The woman in front of us—who I might have engaged in conversation— wasn’t someone we’d ever find ourselves socializing with. In fact, she didn’t look very kind. She didn’t look well-groomed. She didn’t look very happy. I had never seen her before in my life. I didn’t feel drawn, in any way, to talk to her.

But then, I did.

I noticed she placed a piece of fresh ginger the size of my arm on the checkout belt.

Be curious. Believe the best.

I glanced at my daughter and took a deep breath. “I noticed you have an enormous piece of ginger!” I called out to her. “I’m dying to know what you use all of the ginger for.”

She turned slowly around to me. Suddenly, her whole face lit up. She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she told my daughter and me all about her extra harvest of carrots and how she makes the best carrot-ginger soup. She told us her secret of how to make the soup, and as she talked, she became more and more beautiful to me.

“Do you also make beef stew with your root vegetables?” I asked.

On and on we talked about her beef stew recipe and the expensive red wine she uses in it. She told me how to partially cook the potatoes the right way and how to sear the meat.

As we waited for the cashier, I told her that my daughter and I had just been talking about getting our nails done and whether the square shape or almond shape is better for nails. “What do you think?” I asked.

She pulled back her old sweatshirt to reveal the most exquisite nails. She had a special polish that changed color in various lights. She turned her hand side to side, and we marveled about the purple, the blue, the gold, the pink, and then the red we saw. She then interrupted us and turned to open her arms wide to greet an employee she knew. My daughter and I noted that many people seemed to know this woman.

The woman turned to say goodbye to us, and I felt like I now had this super-cool, glamorous, foodie friend. “I’ll see you around!” I said.

“Yes! And I’ll check in on how the beef stew goes if you try it. Don’t forget the red wine.”

As my daughter and I walked to the car, my daughter whispered, “Mom, I would have never asked a question to that person. And look! She is an expert in the kitchen and so glamorous.”

The next morning, I turned to James 2, and the Holy Spirit drilled the truth into my mind. Do not show favoritism. Do not judge people.

We read this:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 

I almost showed that woman no “special attention.” I almost missed the joy of that warm, loving conversation. Lesson learned.

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