“Jeeze, Tom! Do you know everybody in this town?” The grocery store bagger asked me this question because I was holding a conversation with the customer behind me while at the same time waving hello to a cashier a few aisles down. It took me off guard, not only because I didn’t actually know the other customer, or because I was surprised that the cashier considered me somebody that she knew enough to wave at, but because I don’t generally consider myself a friendly person.
“No, not everybody,” I replied, “there are still a few people. I’m working on it.” I was playing along, because I could see why he would say that. But his question got me thinking about the four employees of that particular grocery store whom I did know by name. And, oddly enough, there were three customers within my field of view whom I also knew.
It was a surreal moment, because I immediately realized that I knew more than those peoples’ names. I actually knew at least a little about each one of them. That man had his only child late in life, and quite unexpectedly. This guy had once been investigated for gang activity, but had pulled his life back from the brink for the sake of his own unexpected son. I’d gone to youth group with that girl when we were young. I grew up with that guy’s big brother.
I felt strange, as if I’d just realized that I’d grown a mustache without noticing. I paid my bill, said hello to two other people on the way out the door, and pushed my groceries out to the car. When had this happened? How do I actually know so many people? Am I friendly? It might be time to re-evaluate my life.