Years ago I spent a season of my life riding the train and bus to work and came to a realization: people, for some reason, feel very comfortable telling me (a perfect stranger) their life stories. I thought it was strange and that I was totally weird – that there was something about me that prompted them to unburden themselves.
Why would that make me weird? Truth is, I thought that they felt comfortable invading my personal space because I was uncool like they were. But that was stupid, because it wasn’t like the unemployed single mom probably on drugs was the only type of person to approach me, and it wasn’t just on my way to work; it happened at the bank, the grocery store, on the street! People I didn’t know well at work – any time, anywhere.
To many, it would probably be flattering. But here’s the disconnect – when other people unload on me, I then become responsible for fixing and/or seeing them through their troubles. So here are all these people I will never meet again, placing their problems on my heart, and there is nothing I can do but listen and offer advice on the spot! It made me feel absolutely horrible and emotionally drained.
The reason that I feel irrational and unnecessary responsibility for other people (who have nothing to do with me) and their problems? A story for another day, perhaps. But being available to others is always a timely subject. I know now that for that season in my life, God didn’t need me to be in the lives of those people day in and day out – He needed me to just be open with my heart to them. I was reminded of what a blessing it was through Pastor Susan’s post about the same topic.
Whether it’s a long-time friend or someone you just met and will never see again, open your heart, your mind, and your time and let that person have a bit of it. We all face things that we just can’t figure out on our own. I would urge you, however, to turn to the Word during these conversations, and to nudge the other person there as well. As many good answers I was able to provide through experience, none of them work without the Lord.