Look Up. 

I want to share a sweet anecdote with you about a pleasant interaction I had at my friendly neighborhood Starbucks this afternoon.

But first, some context.

I am so guilty of using my phone in excess.

Too often when I go out in public by myself, I experience zero human interaction because I’m constantly looking down at my phone. Most of the time, I’m not looking for anything in particular. I’m just looking; scrolling, and avoiding conversation. Staying in my own little bubble, in my own world, in my own head.

I hate it, I truly do. After all, I am quite a social person. I’ve been really working hard to establish more of a balance between screen time and other activities. So much so that I have even installed an app on my phone that tracks how many times I pick it up to look at it, and how many minutes a day I use it. When I’ve reached my limit, it notifies me and eventually locks me out. I’ve been purposely leaving my phone at home or in the car in order to be more present and “in the moment.” And so far, only good things have come from being less “available” and in touch all of the time.

I’m always afraid I’m going to miss something, and these days, we have to constantly be available. Gone are the days of it being acceptable to call someone to leave a message and receiving a call back 24 to 48 hours later. Now, it can be considered inconvenient or rude to not respond to a text within a couple hours.

Don’t get me wrong. I think social media is a great, fascinating tool {obviously, because I use it often} and technology is amazing {when it works.} I just am personally navigating how to live a life of moderation in all ways, but especially in the debacle of my online life vs. my reality.

Now for my story.

It’s been a hectic week and a whirlwind of a morning. It’s a gray, chilly day, so I made my way to Starbucks for my daily afternoon cup of java. This time, I didn’t leave my phone in the car because I have a substitute in my classroom and had to have it in case I needed to be reached, but I was consciously trying to not mindlessly scroll through all my apps. While standing in line, I responded to some emails and texts and then tucked my phone away in my sweater pocket.

I began to faintly hear the precious sound of children laughing and singing. At first I thought I was hearing things {that’s what being a teacher of young children will do to you!} but then I noticed the older gentleman behind me smiling real big and chuckling at his phone.

“I tell ya what, there’s nothing better than hearing your grandchildren sing you ‘Happy Birthday!’ even though they’re states away,” he said to me as he continued to beam.

“Oh I bet! Is it your birthday today?” I asked.

“It is! That’s why I’m here. Came in for my free coffee.”

I wished him a “happy birthday” as we continued to wait for the line to move.

“Are you having a good day today?” he asked as we inched forward.

I told him about my crazy morning, and about how much I love the kids in my class. I told him how I love Fridays because, duh, it’s Friday, but that I always start to get sad around this time on Fridays, because I think about how I’ll miss my kiddos until Monday.

“You’re a good teacher,” he says. “People like you are the kind of people we need more of in this crazy world.”

I was so touched by his genuine honesty and kind words; it almost caught me off guard. This man has known me for about four minutes yet already sees something in me that tells him that I am a decent human being.

I asked him if he was enjoying his birthday and about what he does for a career. I was loving how open he was being with me. You don’t get that much these days. People are typically more closed off and less willing to converse at all, let alone share details about themselves and their lives. It was so refreshing.

Somehow, someway, we began to talk about life. How it’s hard, how it’s lovely, how it’s always an adventure. We talked about our faith, marriage, our spring break plans. How the ocean is always mind-blowing no matter how many times you see it. {This whole conversation occurred within eight minutes.}

“It never stops; the good and the bad keep on coming. But that’s what makes it such an adventure, and that’s what makes the adventure great,” he stated with the most genuine smile I have ever seen.

Once I got my coffee and it was time to go, I wished him a “happy birthday” once again. He told me that I’m a “delight” and that he was surprised to see someone from my generation willing to have a spontaneous, enjoyable conversation with him. I said, “my pleasure,” chuckled to myself, and walked back to the car. That’s when I started thinking about how sad it is that he was so surprised to have a positive interaction.

Millennials, we have got to do better.

We’re so preoccupied with ourselves and with our internet worlds that we are truly missing out on precious, genuine human connection.

I aim to do better.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. -Hebrews 13:2