A recent episode of the podcast, This American Life, included the story of a man whose name I can't recall.
In a minute, you'll see why that's strangely appropriate.
This man's desk was near the printer at his office. Now, we all know what it is like to grab something off the printer in an office. You go to the printer, and pick up your printouts - provided the stars have all aligned properly. And, if we're polite, we say hello or may small talk with the coworker who has the misfortune of sitting near the machine.
At the office featured in the podcast, one of the office workers realized she had worked at the office for some time and didn't know the name of the man who worked at the desk next to the copy machine. Wondering if she was the only one, she went around the office asking people what the man's name was.
It turned out few knew his name. Even worse, there were some who had no idea someone had a desk there - they were that oblivious to their environment as they rushed to get their own work done.
Listening to the podcast, I felt so sorry for the man. When the host interviewed him, he seemed genuinely surprised to find that so many people with whom he had so many conversations didn't know him.
It was also convicting.
I wondered how many people move namelessly through my life - people I encounter each day, but don't know their names and couldn't tell you a thing about them beyond the role they play in helping me get through my day.
When an expert in the law challenged Jesus by asking what commandment was the greatest, Jesus offered this response:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
How can I love my neighbor if I don't even know his name?
Or, better put, how can I love my neighbor if, like the people at the office mentioned in the podcast, I'm so wrapped up in doing what I need to do that I pay little attention to the people around me?
This is my challenge for this week, and I invite you along: Pay attention to the people you encounter this week whether at work, at church or when you're out shopping. Is there someone you see, or even interact with frequently, whose name you don't know?
Step up and introduce yourself.
Be a neighbor.
Especially to the person with the desk next to the office printer.