Saturday, July 3, 2021

Why Long Lines Are Good for Writers & Everyone Else

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

My dad never met a stranger. He loved running into and meeting new people. When we would go on vacations, or take a day trip to the mountains, he always ended up talking to people he’d just met.

As a child, I was so embarrassed. I wasn’t like that at all. Meeting new people paralyzed me. My brain turned to mush and gaga was the extent of my vocabulary.

I was twenty-three.

An hour-long wait at the seafood buffet in Myrtle Beach? Sometimes, it wasn’t long enough for him. He would probably be somewhere talking to someone or a family who had just driven up with out-of-state license plates.

When I got older, and my parents went on trips without me, I would ask what they did when they got back. (This was in the dark ages before cell phones. What a horrid thought now.) Instead of telling us what they did, he would talk about who they met and where they were from. And all the different states and countries they were from.

But when I began paying more attention to Dad, I learned a few tricks on how to make meeting people less terrifying.

How to make meeting a stranger less . . . well, strange.

1. Remember, it’s not all about you.

I used to feel, when I first met someone, like I had to perform. Like being a contestant on American Idol, I was expected to entertain them, and they would then judge me.

And I would be sure to fail again.

Haven’t we all failed or come up short? Whether it was in sports, class, or a social clique, there is always that time when we didn’t get picked or cheered for like we wanted.

To me, meeting someone was just another opportunity to come up short.

But Daddy showed me that this wasn’t true. He didn’t see meeting someone as a contest. He didn’t have to pass or make a certain score. Instead, he got the chance to know who they were and what they did. And that was enough for him.

2. People like to have others take an interest in them.

If you want to strike up a conversation with someone, ask them a question about themselves. We all like to talk about ourselves, especially to someone who will listen.

And that is usually the problem we have when we meet someone else, isn’t it?

We don’t want to take the time to listen to them talk about themselves. We want to talk about us.

That was definitely me when I was younger. And often, now, if I want to be honest. (I don’t.) But it is hard to be friendly when you put yourself before everybody else. When, instead of listening, you’re thinking about what you want to say. (Ouch. Writing this is no longer fun.)

3. We all are looking for a friendly face.

Whether Daddy was sitting on the bench in the mall or at a diner, he didn’t care who he spoke to. (Again, terrifying his young kids.) No matter your race, class, or where you were from, he wanted to talk. And listen.

All of us are looking for acceptance, for someone who we can talk to and not feel judged. We share many of the same hurts and issues. My situation may not be the exact same as yours, but I can still appreciate the pain or joy you’re going through.

And we all need the affirmation that we’re okay, not normal but still lovable. Even with our unique hang-ups and situations

Most of us seem very capable while we are wearing our masks. We don’t want anyone else to see the effort we are having to expend to give others the impression that we have it all together. And to have someone who we can lower the mask, even a little bit, let’s us feel better about ourselves and life in general. 

Writers have the reputation of leaning more toward being introverts than most. As scary as the blank page is to us, we often prefer that than going to a party or getting up on a stage.

But, if we don’t sit on the bench, or strike up a conversation while waiting in line, we can miss so much. God made us as sheep who need the rest of the flock. And it is by meeting others, and listening, that we can learn so much about ourselves, life, and even our Heavenly Daddy.

Isn’t that worth putting off dinner for a few minutes?


Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at


  1. Those are great things to remember. Thanks, Tim

  2. More mighty good points from Tim. Thanks.
    Jay in SC

  3. My husband has one of those never-met-a-stranger personalities. Our kids (now grown) used to cringe when he would walk up to perfect strangers and start talking. As for conversations after church, since we lived next door, we just learned to walk home and let him talk until the last person left. He gets compliments from his boss about how he puts people at ease.

    1. To a lot of people, it’s a gift. Glad he found a place where it is appreciated.

  4. Great post, Tim! You just described my husband. He's a people lover, for sure!

  5. This is wonderful. (I'm hoping I can share on my blog?) I can relate. My mom's one of those people who've never met a strangers but I've experienced the beauty of being an introvert. I get to listen well and not strive to be heard but to hear another's voice and back story. We all have them. Thanks!