I have a confession to make: I was eavesdropping on one of my recent flights.
But let me explain…
I situated myself in my aisle seat for a short hour and a half flight. I was prepared. I had some work tucked away in my backpack. I had some conversation with the businessman seated next to me. I also had a package of my favorite airline cookies to snack on.
That’s when I heard three people break out into a loud laughter who were having a fun conversation. In the row behind me and across the aisle was a twenty-something with piercings, tattoos, earbuds, and a large coffee sitting next to a seventy-something married couple who resembled my grandparents. And they were having the best time!
I listened to their conversation. It was evident they were not traveling together. In fact, they had just met.
What happened between those three individuals was something really special. They were asking each other questions, talking about music, discussing places they’ve been, and interacting about why certain things were important in each other’s lives. What was happening was that they were getting to know each other. Amazing, right? Two individuals from a different generation were making an effort to get to know a young man whom they could’ve easily dismissed in the short flight to the next city. Instead, everyone walked away from that plane with a new friend.
So what’s the point of my eavesdropping story? It’s really quite simple – make a new friend with someone outside of your generational context. And while you’re at it, consider these three things:
1. Don’t make assumptions. Take a chance.
Quite frequently, we make the assumption that someone outside of our generational context has no desire to get to know us. Obviously, there will be generational differences. There will be differences in style, opinions, and tastes. We often assume that those who may not have the same thoughts as we do would have no desire to engage in conversation. Take a chance and start a conversation with an older or younger individual on your daily path. Don’t assume that he or she doesn’t want to talk to you. Most people enjoy good conversation! Be willing to ask a question to get the conversation started.
2. Be a listener.
One of the aspects of this eavesdropping conversation was that all parties involved were listening to each other. They were asking each other questions and genuinely wanting to know what the others had to say about it. I would venture to say that they wouldn’t always be on the same page in tastes or opinions, but they were respecting each other and the context from which the others came. I’m convinced that more people would like each other if they actually took the time to listen.
3. See one another.
Take the time to actually see one another. See value in the people you find yourself standing next to in line at the grocery store. See others as created in the image of God. The outside casing may tempt us to avoid each other, but on the inside people desire love, compassion, truth, honesty, and so forth.
Try to walk through your day with the eyes of Jesus. Take the moments of your daily commute to actually look at people with the eyes of a Savior who loves each and every one of us with great love and compassion. Those eyes don’t judge. They don’t hate. Those eyes see people as image bearers of the God who created them.
I’m a huge advocate for mentoring. I believe it’s a biblical mandate for us to spend time with those who are at different points of a relationship with Jesus. We have so much to learn from each other. We can’t miss the opportunities near us to pour into others and be poured into by those who are further along on the journey with Christ. God made us to walk with each other, and it’s important that we make it our priority.
By the way, before the three new friends got off the plane, the young man looked at the older couple and thanked them for the conversation. He also asked them to pray for him and his future. And I have no doubt that my new favorite senior adult couple made a point to pray for that young man as soon as they could. Because, hey… they were all friends!
Mark Whitt is the Collegiate and Young Adult Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. Before joining Lifeway, he spent many years on the campus of Murray State University as a campus minister. Connect with Mark via Twitter.