I’m not sure whether you’re like this, but I love to people-watch. One of the best types of places I find for this is coffee shops or cafes. You can sit with your drink of choice, perhaps with friends, a newspaper, or a book, and flit from your main focus to the activities going on around you. I also find the same is true on the train, metro or bus, but you may also find this true with a place at home that’s good for watching people pass by – maybe on their way to the shops or to work.
One of the great things about it is when you’re able to be part of your own activity – be that conversation or reading or watching the television – but also able to see what is happening, who is passing by, what colour car next door’s daughter now has. We manage, somehow, to pick up a lot of information about what is going on and who is doing what. It helps us to get a feel for what other people are interested in, what makes them tick, and what is available around us.
I think people-watching is something that most people enjoy one way or another. It opens us up to what has been good around us and to what might be new to us. Perhaps we can even see something that changes our perspective.
As a Church in the community, we sometimes need to spend a bit of time sitting back and doing some people-watching too. We’re lucky – we have such lovely big windows in our entrance area to look through. But we can do a bit of people-watching when we’re not at the Church building too. It’s good for us to see what things are keeping people busy, and what things get people excited and interested. It’s good for us to see how people spend their Sundays and what activities Children and Young People like to participate in. It’s good for us to recognise the strains on young professionals, single parents, the elderly, the poor and the disadvantaged. When we do some serious people-watching, then we can see some people who have needs and desires that we just might be able to answer.
But as well as what we see, we might also have our perspective changed. When we look out at the world from a café, we can see acts of human kindness, we can see how people behave with one another, we can see how others in our community treat one another. Sometimes, that’s enough to remind us that we’re part of a community that does care for one another, despite what it sometimes seems. And we can also see that parts of the world outside our doors may not be as alien as we think they might be.
So next time you’re sat waiting for the bus, or in a coffee shop or restaurant, and take a look around, have a think about what we can learn from watching the community around us. When we take in what’s happening and what’s important, then we can start to understand more clearly the situation we find ourselves in and more able to respond.