I sat down to eat my burrito alone since I was traveling on the road. Mid way through devouring this tasty hot mess, a curly haired, scraggly bearded, and large man-boy who looked like Chris Farley’s twin sits adjacent to me on this community concoction of tables. He flops his burrito down while scrolling up and down on his iPhone. He was in his own world and didn’t appear to want to be bothered by some overly friendly dude.
As he sat, naturally I made a gentle “bro-like” hello and head knod towards him. Sometimes you have to put a “feel’er” out so people aren’t completely turned off by your act of acknowledgement to them. So I proceeded…
Mind you, Peter was 23. He was about twice my size. He had a white low v-neck shirt and jeans on. He had a glaze that looked like he just woke up. He was entrenched in his phone and appearing to want to be left alone.
When I said that non confrontational “hello” he responded with a surprised head knod… 2 second stare and the most awkward thumbs up ever! I took a few more bites and finished my Casa Gourmet burrito. Then, in a means to find common ground and make small talk I said to Peter, “Man this place is good!”
And then it happened…
Peter, “I’ve been coming here for years, since I was in high school.” I nudged, “where’d you go to high school?” He responded, “Acalanes.” I pushed on with a comforting smile, “oh that’s a great school!” He slowly began to feel a little more at ease with me, “Yeah. Great school. I loved it. A lot of my friends went off to Ivy League schools. But I went to UC Santa Cruz and now I’m a middle school teacher.” And then I asked the question that turned our conversation into a 40 minute segment on the history channel, “what was your major and what do you teach now?” If you must know, Peter majored in the study of the Middle East and now is a World History teacher.
For 40 minutes, Peter went off on everything you could ever want to know about the Middle East and his study abroad experience there. Here was a young man that looked as if he didn’t want anyone to interrupt his own little world. Here was a human like you and I pass by, sit by, and ride the morning Bart rail to work with. Here was a human with a soul and spirit that wanted to feel appreciated. We all innately desire love as a human race. And how many times do we ignore or act as if the people around us don’t matter?
The world we live in… As beautiful as it is, now more than ever, we must strive to be better people. If you’re reading this, you have the courage to make a difference and love someone like Peter today. You have the power to make someone’s day and give them attention. So often I get trapped in my phone or use it as a crutch to not have to look up and make eye contact with someone who I pass on the sidewalk.
Dallas… Baton Rouge… The change for a better tomorrow starts with you and I in our interactions with the people God puts us in contact with today! Every moment is an opportunity for us to love someone like Peter. As we parted ways, Peter very kindly thanked me for the conversation and said, “I needed that.”