Running Deep with Strangers may be the only way to overcome the indifference we feel toward our neighbors and dozens of people nearby who might welcome a brief bond. We tend to rely mostly upon lengthy relationships for our compassion when it’s possible to reach that depth with unfamiliar people once at Starbucks or on a park bench. Jesus modeled that kind of human contact on the road with strangers. That’s where he may have experienced some of his deepest empathy.
My perception of empathy changed drastically after spending a few years as a street chaplain on Skid Row in Los Angeles with complete strangers. I accepted a seminary internship, a pilot project dubbed “The Ministry of Presence,” funded by my denomination. My task was to get to know the transients as opposed to engaging in an evangelistic effort. I realized after a year of encountering strangers on the streets I began to slip into a vulnerable mode of relating, a mutual sharing of candid feelings and running deep with the understanding there would not be subsequent meetings.
You may assume you have never had an in-depth bond with a stranger but my hunch is most people in their travels have had times when conversations went beyond safe chatter. And that kind of compassion needs to be celebrated.
Join us on Sunday as I talk about “When Jesus Ran Deep,” at 8 and 9:30 am, and how we are called to “Be Vulnerable” as part of the “Connected” worship series at Ignite (11:15 am in the chapel).
Rev. Buzz Stevens
Author of Running Deep with Strangers: A Must for Human Survival