When we meet someone for the first time, how often does it occur to us that they may become a significant part of our lives? From time to time, someone will tell me their literal story of love/BFF-ship at first sight and it always seems incredible to me. I can’t say I’ve ever come close to having hunches of that variety.
With the friends I’ve known since childhood, I couldn’t even tell you the first time we met and spoke. In primary school, Janet and I knew each other before we officially said hi and there was never a point in time at which we introduced ourselves. It was a similar story with Karl in high school. Marija’s one of the exceptions in that I recall a teacher presented a small group of us to her as the new girl that we should make welcome.
As an adult, I’ve met thousands of people and not once did it cross my mind that there might be a second meeting, and a third and a fourth and so on. That we might work together (this actually happened with my manager – we spoke on the phone a good year before she became my boss). That we might somehow become a regular part of each other’s lives. That we might end up as friends. That we might mean something to each other.
Not once in all these introductions and first meetings did I entertain the thought that this person and I might come to leave an impression on each other, long after years and continents separate us.
I’m pondering this, writing this, because two years ago I met a new person. Just a normal person. I remember the day, the conversation. That it was enjoyable, as conversations with strangers sometimes are. And I remember when he asked to add me on Facebook that there could be an invitation to meet up over a drink and that I was okay with that. But I definitely wasn’t thinking about second or third drinks.
Hindsight’s funny like that.
It made me wonder: what if we approached every first meeting, every first conversation, with more openness to the possibility of ongoing relationship?
I don’t mean that we see every new person as a potential mate. That would colour our interactions in the wrong sort of way, not to mention leading to a lot of hurt and disappointment (especially if we already have a partner)!
But I do mean that we meet and treat a stranger as special even before they become special to us.
It’s counter to what we usually do: simply shake hands and barely register that person’s existence, or even make a judgment on first impressions.
Taking the time to listen and get to know a new person as if they’re a future friend would honour their dignity as a human being, show them love in a powerful way. Who knows what that could lead to.
Header image: Duy Pham.