When I go out to a restaurant with my law enforcement friends, they always sit with their back to the wall at the restaurant. I completely understand the need to adopt such a habit for security reasons. I too sit at the back of eating establishments, and in other public places as well. My reasons are twofold. I too am security conscious. (I have worked in the field too long.) But, I also want to be open to meeting people…
When I sit on the back row at a continuing education conference, I watch fellow participants. How are they responding to the material? What is their state of mind? Are there any out of the ordinary reactions? In all kinds of settings, I try to pay attention to minute details. People are sending important nonverbal messages all of the time.
I recall reaching out to a fellow retreatant during at a spiritual formation retreat. That person was sending a message nonverbally that was not in Morse Code. It was loud and clear. I initiated a conversation, and the result was a friendship that has spanned over 8 years now. That “person” is a dear friend, golfing partner, and fellow creator of mischief at retreats! I am thankful that I was sitting on the back row that October evening in 2011….
On another occasion, I was at a dinner during a training conference. We were all squeezed in around the dining room table at the presenter’s home eating our “bring your own fast food” meal. One of the participants arrived slightly later than the rest of us. I of course was at the very end of the table, so I immediately moved my chair even further out to make room. Such close quarters provided the ideal opportunity to initiate conversation with our new arrival to the dinner group. And it didn’t take me long to determine that the newcomer to the dinner table would soon assume an important place in my life. That perception proved to be true. I am thankful I was sitting in my normal spot at the table that evening…The person who arrived slightly later is one my dearest friends.
I fly to Milwaukee to see my “Wisconsin Friends” as often as possible. My most recent trip north was to assist with the funeral service for my beloved elementary school principal. When the plane landed in Washington DC to drop off passengers and to pick up additional ones, I patiently waited for the process to be completed. It was during that transition that I noticed an airline employee waring a thin blue line memory band like mine. I pointed out that I too was wearing the same band. And I told this person that I wore my thin blue line bracelet in memory of Hood County Sheriff’s Deputy, Sgt. Lance McLean. That simple conversation initiated a significant friendship…. I am thankful that I was sitting toward the back of the plane that morning…
I never cease to be amazed that God brings the right people into our lives at the right time. It has happened in my life over and over again. Such individuals have this uncanny way of showing up at the right time. It does not always occur on a back row! Sometimes it stems from an unexpected phone call or message. But, I have found that the right people always show up at the right time. Henri Nouwen says: Pay attention to the people God puts in your path if you want to discern what God is up to in your life. I believe he is on to something. I have found that God has worked wonders in my life through the people He puts in my path…
But, if you are going to experience the people He puts in your path, I might offer a few suggestions:
- Get your nose out of your phone. If my nose had been stuck in my phone (as it often is), I would have missed all of the above-mentioned opportunities.
- Be open to relationships with all kinds of people. They may not look like you. They may be considerably older or younger. Just be open.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. Be courageous. Be an initiator! That stranger could very well become a very good friend.
- And just sit on the back row!