An Introvert in a Crowd

Going to a home school convention (or any convention, for that matter) can be overwhelming. Hundreds upon hundreds of strangers milling around, all there for the same reason you are. Vendors and sessions to catch, a friend or two you want to see, money, meals, kids—it can be too much!

Being an introvert myself, these kinds of gatherings can really make me nervous. I don’t like crowds. Upon arrival it is my instinct to look around for places to hide. Can I just pick up my math, hear Ken Ham, and then slip away unnoticed? Doubtful.

However, something happened to change my perspective on conventions. I accidentally spoke to a stranger, and guess what? The stranger was really nice and interesting! So, the thought occurred to me: Maybe some of these other 800 people arenice and interesting too! I formulated a plan. The next time I was going to go to a convention, I would just walk up to people and introduce myself. Weighing the possibility of death by embarrassment against the opportunity to meet more nice and interesting people, I decided the cost was worth it.

I am not going to lie—it wasn’t easy. I spent the few days before convention praying.  I kept asking God to give me courage. I knew the key was to think of the other person before myself. If I was mostly interested in them and not in talking about myself, then what did I have to lose? All they could do was reject me; and if my interest was in them and not in myself, it didn’t matter. (. . . easier said than done!)

Armed with prayer and a little determination, I headed to the convention, dedicated to meeting three new people—just three. I wasn’t looking to win any world records in friendship. The first moment came in the registration line. We were wending through the ropes, waiting for our turns—stranger in front of me, stranger behind me. I should do it now. These people are STUCK here. I turned to the woman behind me (she was facing me, after all) and said, “Hi!” She smiled a tiny bit and turned slightly away from me. Oh no, you don’t, lady. I risked my life saying hello to you. “Are you from this area?” I asked. “How many kids are you home schooling? Is there a session this weekend that you really want to go to?” Eventually she started to talk a little, we made it to the front of the line, and we each went our own way. Whew! That torture was behind me. Absolute torture.

But here’s where it gets good. The rest of the weekend I would see her occasionally in passing. We’d smile at each other, and I would ask how this or that was going. No big, deep new relationship was likely to come of it, but I really enjoyed seeing her around.

My next victim was a woman sitting at a table alone. I decided, instead of sitting by myself, I would ask to sit at her table, introduce myself, and ask how she was doing. She was chattier than the first stranger, and we talked for about ten minutes. Not too hard. She was nice. Two down. Almost “home.”

Exhausted from my efforts, I planned to give myself a little reward. I told myself I didn’t have to talk to any more strangers for an hour. It was my version of a goldstar pat on the back. But the funny thing was, I seemed to have flipped a switch in my brain that said, “Talk to people you don‘t know,” and I couldn’t turn it off. I’d be standing in a vendor booth, minding my own business, when I hear a voice saying, “Have you tried this before?” and realize it was me trying to talk to a woman near me. Yes, I had become the obnoxious lady you do not want to be standing next to in line—all smiling and friendly and how-do-you-do.

Somehow, by the grace of God, my fear of opening up a conversation with a stranger had diminished. I was starting to feel like my new mission was to make people feel loved by God. I was, much to my surprise, starting to actually care about these people in a way I hadn’t before.

Now, several years later, I still struggle, but I am less fearful of turning to someone I don‘t know and saying hello. I have been rejected many times, and you know what? It barely even hurts. I just move on to the next unsuspecting target. I still have to tell myself before a big convention, “Make yourself talk to three people. Just three.”

And, like that first time, it never stops there. Once I get going, I’m the friendly girl that you want to avoid. Don’t sit next to me. I will ask you questions. I will even pray with you if I’m feeling particularly daring.

The next time you go to a convention, pray first. Ask God for three people, just three, whom you can meet. And see where He takes it from there!