Last week at the library and immediately after at the playground, I got to talking to another mom. I tend toward the quiet introvert type, so I don’t often strike up a conversation. My husband can’t get through a simple retail transaction without a full-blown conversation ensuing while I could go weeks without one if pressed. Meeting new people is not my strong suit, but after seeing this woman in not one but two places in a short span, I started chatting.
She was a young, pregnant mom, new to the area. We found some similar interests and common experiences and had a good conversation. Eventually it was time for me to corral my kids and for her to get to a prenatal appointment. We each went our separate ways without so much as a goodbye.
And it bugged me.
Here was a young woman in a new town, with a husband who travels a lot for work, suffering through first trimester sickness with a toddler in tow. Oh, how I could relate.
And yet, she didn’t leave my company any better than when she’d met me, other than perhaps to be assured that her experience wasn’t unique. Another mom understood.
As I drove home, I wished I’d offered to keep in touch. If she ever needed an emergency baby sitter or a friendly ear, I live less than a mile from her neighborhood. But, I hadn’t had a business card on me, nor a paper or pen. I did, however, have a phone. It never occurred to me that I could have easily texted my contact information to her or given her my name and invited her to find me on Facebook.
All this to say that while my intentions are often good, I fail at simple interactions.
I readily accept that when it comes to sins of commission, growing in virtue and eliminating bad habits may take time, persistence, prayer, and practice. I may have to employ specific tactics or use specific skills.
Then why when it comes to sins of omission, do I think I should spontaneously know and do what’s right every time?
I’m not certain that my behavior last week was sinful, but at the least it was a missed opportunity to demonstrate kindness. I’m reluctant to admit that doing so doesn’t come naturally.
Maybe being a better person means I have to do things that are difficult or uncomfortable. Maybe just as I teach my children to make eye contact and offer a firm handshake, I need a lesson in social graces myself if for no other reason than to cultivate virtue.
I’ve long considered practiced social skills as calculated or manipulative. It’s taken many years for me to realize that if done in the proper spirit it’s merely thoughtful.
Take this post from Michael Hyatt on simple conversation starters. Why has it taken so long for me to see that preparing and practicing for such situations is more courteous than disingenuous? That a habit of enduring conversation rather than engaging conversation has caused me to miss opportunities to do good?
Everyone is called to kindness and holiness regardless of personality type. Certainly the saints offer us vivid examples of the diverse paths to sanctity. Whether spunky, smart, dim-witted, cranky, introvert, or extrovert, they were filled with grace. Holiness didn’t make them less of who they were, only more, enabling them to be the person God intended them to be.
Regardless of our personality types or natural proclivities, we may have to step outside our comfort zones – do a little more, try a little harder – lest we let a wealth of opportunities for doing good slip by. Even one as simple as lending an ear.
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