You walk down the sidewalk and see hundreds of people every day. On a college campus, you probably know a lot of them—but how well do you really know them?
Maybe you’re comfortable enough to ask, “Hey, how are you?” in passing. However, this is often where the conversation ends. If not, then you might resort to well-rehearsed small talk, commenting about the weather or mentioning your heavy workload.
This kind of conversation is very common. Often we don’t even wait to hear a response. Although we may not even remember others’ names or where we met them, we convince ourselves that we care about them. Having many acquaintances takes precedence over having a few close friends.
Technology takes a portion of blame for the trend of shallow communication in our society. With a seemingly infinite world tucked away in our pockets, why do we need to concern ourselves with the people around us? Yet technology is not the only contributing factor.
Busyness also lends heavily to our situation. Nowadays our lives are so heavily scheduled that we leave scarce time to get to know one another. We are always rushing from one thing to the next and putting duties rather than people as priorities.
When we do find the time, however, we are often absorbed in ourselves. We talk about our own lives, our struggles, our accomplishments. We don’t take the opportunity to look up and truly show an interest in the people around us.
But God has given us the incredible gift of community. We are not created to live in solitude, but to thrive amongst one another, building each other up.
The Bible says that we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), “comfort one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:18), and “stir one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25). All of these require being invested in other people’s lives.
Furthermore, community is a gift that we should enjoy. We’ve all been through individual experiences, have different talents, abilities and unique points of view.
In a way, we form a living library; each person holds a novel you’ve never read, hundreds of characters you may never meet and places you may never go. Human beings are the most curious things on this planet.
Yet if we stay focused on our own lives, busyness or technology, we’ll never learn each other’s stories; we’ll never get past the shallowness and build deeper relationships. We may appear social on the outside, but no amount of small talk, meetings or emails can make up for the personal interaction we lose when we forget to really focus on people around us.
So next time you ask someone how they’re doing, really mean it. Listen to their response and ask more questions.
Sometimes this means putting down your phone at the dinner table, scheduling time to have coffee with a friend, or just actively listening when someone talks to you. Remember that getting to know others takes active involvement in their lives.
Have a meaningful conversation with someone and get to know their story—not just their face.