Tuesday night, Chandler and I attended an L.A. Clippers NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was the first professional basketball game for both of us. We had pretty good seats — mid-court, first row of the upper deck. Chandler was thrilled. It was better than TV. You could follow the movement of the ball better and the action was nonstop. There were plenty of things to cheer about — a steal and a breakaway, a stop-and-shoot three-pointer or someone snaking through from back court to the front ending with a dramatic slam dunk. But being a baseball fan, I missed the home run — the big event that made everyone get up on their feet and scream for a long time. I’ll have to admit, the game of basketball does have a certain rhythm to it once everyone is clicking together although that didn’t happen too often last night for the Clippers. Probably why they lost, despite leading for a while in the third quarter.
There was a young Millennial-aged woman sitting next to me and she was by herself, which I thought was a little odd. I guessed she was in her late twenties, although that was hard to tell because I couldn’t see much of her face; she was wearing a mask. The ticket site said masks were not required but recommended. I would say about 15% of the crowd was masked.
I assumed she wanted to be left alone and that was fine with me because I didn’t really feel like reaching out anyway. So I left her alone the whole game and when the people on the other side of her left in the fourth quarter she moved down to the end of the row, pretty much confirming what I thought all along — her mask was like a barrier she put up so she didn’t have to engage anyone.
The next morning I wrote about this and that’s about as far as I got. When I shared this with Marti she just stared at me.
“You mean you spent the evening between two Millennials and that’s all you got — that they want to be isolated? That’s not even true! They don’t want to be isolated; they are isolated. And they would like to change that, but they don’t know how. Here you are, at a basketball game, thinking about baseball, and missing what was going on right under your nose.”
You know, there are times when I am just not engaged. I can be so far into myself that I’m simply unaware of what is going on around me. Here I was sitting right next to a Millennial for the whole game — and how long have we been talking about Millennials now? — and I missed it. Didn’t even connect that she was a Millennial until the next day.
“Well, what could I have done?” I said, trying to cover for myself.
“You could start with ‘Hi, how are you?’ You can speak through a mask, you know.”
“I tried to catch her eye a few times but she was not up for connecting.”
“No, but if you were, you might have been able to change that. You could have said, ‘I’m going to the concession stand. Can I get you something?’ That would at least get you a smile. Anything that says ‘I notice you,’ would have made a difference.” I know she’s right.
I suddenly realized I had embodied everything we are wanting to get our 60+ people over. Here was a golden opportunity to try and find something that would work, and I had let my own fear and isolation get the best of me.
So how about you? How about you tell us what you might have done in that same situation with some time to think about it. You’re right between two Millennials at a basketball game. I’m serious — write me in a return email or in the comment section below and let me know what you would do. Let’s have some fun with this. Maybe we’ll even learn something.
After work, I catch my bus at a stop near an outlet mall and casino. There may be one or two other riders there before I arrive, sometimes a few more, and, usually, they’re not the same people as the day or week before. I seem to be the only consistent passenger using that bus stop at that particular time of day.
The mall shoppers are easy to spot because of their bags; and often (oddly) they’re visiting from another country: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China, Germany, Finland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, Canada and other places I’d love to visit!
I know they’re from the above countries because when I arrive at the stop, I’ll simply say, “Good afternoon,” and a conversation generally begins.
As I approach the stop, they’re usually looking at their phones (trying to interpret the bus schedules) and they look up at me in slight surprise and respond with a smile and an accented, “Hello!”
I’ll then ask which direction they’re heading and if they know which bus to catch. They seem genuinely happy that I’m engaging with them (and not going to accost them!) and they do their best to converse in English with me. That’s when I’ll ask where they’re from and what brings them up to our little berg north of Seattle, and so forth.
If they’re catching my bus, we’ll often sit together and continue with some small talk.
When we arrive at their stop they always smile, thank me, sometimes shake my hand – sometimes bow, and will wave at me from outside the bus as I continue on home.
I have similar encounters with younger individuals – Millennials, GenX’ers, GenZ’ers – at the bus stop. They, too, are looking at their phones when I say, “Good afternoon.”
On occasion a few will just ignore me, so I don’t “intrude” any further. But, more often than not, many others will look at me (sometimes suspiciously) and respond with, “Hi.”
I might then make a comment about the weather or the bus being late or something else innocuous; then, a light conversation sometimes gets underway.
Now, even though I’m interrupting whatever they were doing on their phones, they don’t seem to mind. In fact, the conversation sometimes turns more serious as they express their concerns to me about world events, the economy, climate change, affordable housing, and much deeper issues than a short bus ride can ever resolve.
Yet, I simply listen.
And I think they feel good about being able to air their feelings to some old guy and, hopefully, not feel judged.
I offer no advice and never get “preachy,” but do I try to offer some kind words of encouragement before we part, something like, “Hang in there,” or “It was nice talking with you” or something else probably considered banal.
And then there are the encounters with the homeless. It’s touching how they brighten up when I say a simple, “Good afternoon.”
Then, a light friendly conversation ensues…
So, in the basketball scenario above, I concur with Marti.
A simple, “Good evening,” or a high-five in her direction during an exceptional play, or an offer to get something from the concession stand may have changed the trajectory of her night and, possibly, life…
John, please forgive me for not giving credit where credit is due.
If I remember correctly, you were the one who motivated me several years ago to not be afraid and to be willing to say, “Hi” to strangers as I do now at the bus stop, grocery store, and elsewhere.
I don’t remember how long ago it was but think you posted a Catch about a gentleman intent on jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge unless another pedestrian looked him in the eye and smiled at him.
I may have the details from that story messed up but I do know it served as an inspiration for me to do that very thing, to express that very kindness to another soul.
So, thank you for that, John!
Be encouraged and, Shalom, Peace…
Your comments brother Bob reminded me of my mentor in Amway Brad Doyle (RIP) taught me about the very same thing in order to help build a successful Amway Biz was to stick my hand out and say hello to others & get interested in their lives & simply make a friend (called a cold contact in my Biz and using a thing we call FORM = what to guide the conversation as in Family, Occupation, Relations ship & Marriage, or message) and who knows hey might be interested in making an Inflation proof, On going and Passive income that Amway offers & have been for over 63 years…
God’s speed to you & yours
John wrote about a few times. One of them was in a catch called “What to do” August 5th 2019 The exerpt:
I always think of that person who jumped off the Golden Gate bridge and lived to tell about it, who said he told himself that if anyone — even a stranger — smiled at him that morning on his way to the bridge, he wouldn’t jump. Obviously, no one did. Look at what a simple smile could have done.
Yes, you got it right, Bob. No one smiled at him so he jumped and lived to tell about it!
Dear BobNearSeattle – the only two spots I know with a casino and outlet mall “near Seattle” are Auburn and North Bend…are you hanging out in either of these spots? We might be neighbors!!
No, we’re up in Marysville near the Tulalip Casino and the Seattle Premium Outlets.
But still, “Howdy neighbor!” 🙂
Self condemnation and that from another believer does stir the pot a bit. Yet, there is body language too! Especially, from a young woman considering all the ugly that can happen BUT sometimes the friendly comment does erase the fear or wall of exclusion.
The what if is always there but we are to reach out. Maybe we do not realize how the Holy Spirit is working to engage with a situation. I do talk and I do try to compliment. Sometimes that results in discussion and pleasurable encounters and sometimes I pick up the vibe that my Pearls of Wisdom are not solicited. Being older does help a bit, like really older seems to lower the suspicion of the listener. Fact is, I am a lip reader so real quick if there is an exchange I have to ask for the mask to come down.
The effort is worth a try for sure and let the chips fall. Personally, I am Blessed with a quick wit that too softens the introduction at times. Just love them!
Speaking of Marti’s witness as a Stewardess, if I had entered a plane and heard the words from the staff, “are you prepared”? I might have backtracked to the machine that sold life insurance in the lobby. One does not see that effort nowadays, just everyone on their phones while waiting.
Amen! To our comments and about gorgeous Marti…
Good Catch; although, I couldn’t read it all, yet enough to get the gist of it.
Back in ’89 – ’92 when the Detroit Pistons were in the NBA Playoffs & Finals and won the Championship twice in a roll! So that was the downfall of me been a faithful Baseball Detroit Tigers follower b/c brought partly (10 games) season tickets for the Pistons and plus it was right around them while being a Mathematics tutor in College I met a gentleman Mike who we became friends too, yet he needed help getting through Algebra II, so to pay me for giving him A LOT of extra time & help, he had Detroit Red Wings (great sitting) Hockey season tickets. He would give me his other seat, so between watching the fast pace Basketball & Hockey games as gorgeous Marti says watching the slow pace of a Baseball game is like watching paint dry, LOL
Knowing how my mind works, I would have traded seats with Chandler. Sparks could fly.
I think it’s important to know your audience. This woman went to a game all by herself. This says to me that she is an introvert. She probably doesn’t have any friends to go to a game with. She keeps to herself. I know just how she is. I’ve gone to many restaurants, movie theaters and baseball games alone. It doesn’t feel weird to me. Her mask and desire to sit where she has more space could be because she is concerned about the spread of disease. It’s not just the annual spike in covid. It’s also the cold and flu season. I wear a mask myself during the winter. I hope to shed it in spring when cases go down. I can relate a lot to this woman. She doesn’t want to put up a barrier, she’s just shy.
The good news is she came to the game alone so she really wanted to be there. She must be a big fan, just not the kind who yells and screams. I would have mentioned the slam dunk or the 3 pointer to her and see if it would get a response. If not, or if she gave just short quick answers, I would know not to pursue a conversation. Maybe though, a conversation about the game could begin and last as long as the game did. Shy people don’t dislike others, they just feel like they don’t have anything to say. I know how that is. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to break the ice.
Sorry John I’ll politely agree to disagree with your Assumption in this: “I think it’s important to know your audience. This woman went to a game all by herself. This says to me that she is an introvert.”
May I please recommend to consider educating yourself by reading a great book: by Dr. Robert Rohm’s “The DISC Method of Understanding Personality Types” Because I can tell you and I’m SURELY NOT, Marti & Pastor John will tell you, I’m CERTAINLY NOT an “introvert,” and can’t count how many times I choose to be by myself, and I’ve sat plenty of times by my self – Who knows maybe, just maybe she too wanted to be by herself…. or God forbid her husband passed away, or SIMPLY couldn’t make it to the game!
So until I can ask her 2 quick questions the above book is ALL about. Sorry my friend who are making an ASS-out -of yourself, as ALL or about all assumptions do.
I am an off-the-chart introvert. I would not have tried to speak to her. No, wait. I would not have gone to the game. I went to a Portland Trailblazers game once many years ago and I hated every minute of the entire evening.
Thank-you 4 sharing, appreciate it & you…