Tonight I worked a late substitute shift at a library two hours from my house.
When I walked in the door, the staff at the front desk had no idea who I was or what I was doing there. The first man I approached stared at my badge like it was covered in hieroglyphs.
And my habitual shyness almost overtook me. I recoiled into my scarf, a turtle withdrawing into her shell.
The old invisible-cloak trick. You can’t see me. I’m not here.
But then I stretched out my hand and introduced myself.
And I thought, hey. These people work together almost every day. I’m the stranger. The interloper. It’s my job to put them at ease and be a good guest.
So I tried something new. Instead of vanishing into the stacks or sitting quietly at a desk, I asked people questions. How long have you worked here? What do you like most about it? What are your plans over the holidays?
And to my surprise, it worked. By the time I got halfway through my shift, we were all laughing and chatting easily about books and work and holidays. And by the end of the night, the regulars said they’d had fun working with me. We all wished each other a Merry Christmas and parted ways.
On the bus ride home, I thought about how easy it had been. And how fun.
Maybe the best way to overcome shyness is through questions. To connect by expressing genuine interest in people. And then see where that takes us.
And above all, to remember that we are all just passing through. All guests in someone else’s home.