Uber Rides, Learning Your Barista’s Name, and Genuine Human Connection


A long time ago, back before many of us were a twinkle or a speck or a tiny fig newton in our parent’s minds, a book came out called “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I first heard about the book several years ago, but only recently read the thing when a friend told me about it. Then NPR did a special on the book, and I read it again.

How to Win Friends and Influence People talks about the wonderful art of connecting with others, regardless of our personality or temperament.

I bring up the book because I read it and thought about the simple, yet effective methods Dale Carnegie taught. I then looked up some of his talks on Youtube and thought he was a rockstar. Simply put, the book is about becoming a nice person. And I realized how often I fail to do the simple things that help me connect with people.

It’s kind of funny, but after a while we think we have our personalities down pat, like we know who we are and how well we will or will not connect with others. We determine if we’re extroverted or shy, gregarious or grumpy, excited by the thrill of meeting new people, or more reserved. Sometimes, we play into these roles, even at the expense of missing out on new friendships and connections.

I’ve noticed this dynamic in my own life–there are times when I am engaged and others’s when I’m not. Days when I’m “feeling it,” and other moments where I feel, well, not much. Working with students has enlarged this in my own life, too. Students notice EVERYTHING. If you need increased accountability in your joy, work with students.

Anyway, I’ve observed how easy it is to lose sight of this when we are stuck in one mode or another.

I did a social experiment the last time I was at Starbucks. I watched how people interacted with their barista. Most people said nothing when they were handed their drink. Others complained about how long it was taking, or came back up if the order was wrong. Very few, though, actually acknowledged their barista and hardly anyone said, “thank you.”

Then there was this other time in Starbucks, where I watched a girl order a drink from her phone. There was no line at this time either. She ordered the drink from her phone and waited around twenty minutes to go pick it up. The drink had been sitting on the counter waiting for her…because…there was no line. She was able to order, pay, and get her drink without any interaction with another human.

Needles to say, I found it odd. But truth be told, it’s just easy to miss the people in front of us, not because we’re attempting to be rude or mean, but because our focus is elsewhere. Sometimes we don’t see the person in front of us because we’re not looking.

I discovered the same dynamic with Uber drivers. We took a couple ubers last time we were in San Diego, and I noticed how grateful our drivers were for simple conversation. Just acknowledging the person in front of us, the simplest gesture of all, was received with joy.

Perhaps the reason we often fail to connect with those around us, is that we’ve become an increasingly distracted generation.

Screens have replaced face-to-face conversations. We’ve mastered multi-tasking between various applications, but have lost the ability to see and hear and interact with those around us.

People everywhere are looking for connection. We are relational beings, created for community and conversation, and the troubling thing about the world is the more “connected” we become, the less we actually know one another.

So, here’s what I’m trying to do: be less distracted. I’m going to put the phone down every once in a while and remove the headphones. I’m going to be more aware of my surroundings and the people who are near me.

I’m going to take time to get to know the people around me, even if it’s just for the mere fact that Christ calls us to see all people as God’s children. We all have the image of God in us. We honor that image when we acknowledge each other and show love and concern.

Let’s get to know our Uber driver’s name.

Let’s say a few words to our baristas.

Let’s engage in the art of conversation because it’s a gift to meet people.

Together, let’s share in the joy of genuine human connection.



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