October 31, 2013 by cbbeard
People all over this nation are starving. These people can be found in big metropolises and tiny communities that don’t even have a zip code. They live as far away from you as across the country, but as near to you as across the street or even across the dinner table. They are starving, but not necessarily for the thing that first comes to mind.
People are starving for people; not in the zombie sense (it IS Halloween, after all…) but in the relational sense. In our individualistic and isolationist society, we have become very crafty at putting up boundaries, and over time those boundaries have become barriers. The “bubbles” of personal space that we employed as various forms of personal defense have actually restricted and robbed us of human interaction that God designed to sustain and strengthen us.
We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking we are better off without close interaction with people…especially those who would be considered “strangers.” We bury our head in a book or a laptop as a message to the person sitting next to us on the flight that we are too busy to talk. We put headphones on as we walk down the street to have an excuse to ignore people and avoid making eye contact. We put up our bubble and act like nothing is missing.
But something IS missing, and I think a photographer on the streets of New York City has shown that to be true. Richard Renaldi likes taking pictures of random people on the streets; but instead of just finding someone and snapping a photograph, he stages a photo with two random strangers in not-so-stranger-friendly poses. AWKWARD!! But out of the soil of awkwardness, something special seems to sprout forth. Check out his work…
Did you hear what people said there?
“We are probably missing so much about the people all around us,” said one woman photographed. “I felt like I cared for her!” exclaimed one young man, surprised by his own reaction, “it felt like it broke down a lot of barriers.”
Do you know what Richard Renaldi’s photographs remind me of? Pictures we see in the Gospels of Jesus. Jesus was constantly entering the personal space of strangers; he would eat with them, drink with them, and hang out with them. What’s more, whenever Jesus helped someone, it was almost always inside the bubble of the personal space of the one he was helping. He got inside the bubble of the Samaritan woman by forgoing small talk and getting to the heart of the matter. He touched the eyes of the blind man and the hands of the man with leprosy. He stooped down and wrote on the ground next to the woman caught in adultery. And that personal space invasion resulted in changed lives.
I wonder how much more effective we could be for the Kingdom of God if we just got rid of our bubbles? And as a by-product, I wonder how much more full our lives would be?
What do you think? What can we do to burst our bubbles? Do we have any good reason for avoiding strangers? What could life and service look like if it had this personal touch?