Granted, I love conversing with people. One of my nicknames is “Chatty Kathy” and in my line of work and ministry, this gift serves me well! It isn’t difficult for me to strike up conversations, and guess what? It doesn’t have to be difficult for any of us if we have open eyes and a listening ear. The answers we find can be stunning, sometimes surprising, and many times beautiful.
About those tattoos and piercings…
“Tell me about your art.”
This began one of my favorite encounters of all time. I simply acknowledged a server’s tattoos at a restaurant. He was almost speechless. I don’t know if it was that I called it art, cared about his story, or was positive instead of negative or indifferent, but he was clearly moved. We had a great conversation and I was honored to hear what was behind each tattoo.
“I’m guessing your piercing signifies something important. I’d love to hear your story if you’d like to share it.”
I’ll never forget this teen boy’s reaction as I settled into my seat on the airplane. He was visibly stunned that I would know that his unusual piercing was probably important to him. He was clearly surprised to have an older adult even acknowledge him, much less care about him. I will never forget his answer. I don’t want to.
“My dad finally told me he loved me and I don’t ever want to forget.”
Now I was the one who was speechless.
Workshop Attendees Take Up the Challenge; Joy Replaces Judgment
“I love your hair. Would you mind telling me what products you use?”
A number of years ago, I challenged hundreds of women at a retreat to think about whether their opinions of teens were fair and right. For example, I asked how many of them held their purses tighter and closer to their bodies when walking past teens in a mall. Many admitted they did. This forced them to confront a belief about an entire generation based on a few bad apples who had made the headlines.
I shared my love of and respect for the generation. I encouraged them to find a positive reason soon to talk with one or more teens in hopes their attitudes would change.
That afternoon, while on a break from the retreat, a group of women went to a movie theater. When they arrived back at the retreat center, one older woman couldn’t wait to tell me what happened.
While in line to purchase popcorn, she noticed how long and beautiful an older teen boy’s hair was. In the past, she admits she would have simply thought and possibly mumbled to a friend that his hair was far too long. This time, though, she turned to him and told him she loved his hair. But, then she went further and honored him more by asking, “Would you mind telling me what products you use?” She told me how much he clearly enjoyed telling her about his routine. He thanked her for her interest.
This encounter didn’t just help to change her attitudes about this generation. It changed her. She felt significant and optimistic. She realized that one conversation can increase hope and joy.
Sometimes The Questions Come Our Way
“Why did you do that?”
“Jesus loves you and God told me to give.”
This began the friendship between a college student and my friend, Andrea. Except for a casual encounter, they didn’t know each other and it didn’t appear that they had anything in common. Yet, Andrea was inspired by God to contribute along with many others so he could attend an advanced study summer opportunity.
This young student didn’t understand why a complete stranger 20 years older than he was would help him. He stopped by to ask. In Andrea’s answer, they discovered they had Jesus in common. They ate lunch together several times after this and Andrea made sure to pay attention to his academic progress. Although they didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything, Andrea always put Jesus first and trusted Him to care for her friend. This is her typical was of being. I love this about her.
This young man graduated in May and relocated to Orlando. When Andrea learned about the tragic loss of life there, she texted him on Sunday morning very concerned. She heard from him several hours later.
This young man had been at the nightclub earlier that week but wasn’t there at the time of the shooting. She texted back and communicated her relief that he was well.
After reading some of his Facebook posts since the tragedy, she knew he wasn’t dealing well with what had happened. He admitted to being fearful, lonely, angry, and frustrated.
Andrea reached out to a good friend of mine who lives in Orlando who she only knows on Facebook. He quickly responded, “Yes, share my contact information with your friend. Thank you for caring.”
She texted her friend, sharing the contact information, and received this response: “TY so much! I am all alone in Orlando, no friends or family. And so frightened.”
God did this because Andrea is sensitive to the Holy Spirit and reached out to this student even though they’re quite different. She chose to hang out with him at lunch and was eager to talk about Jesus.
God did this because I’m friends with many people not exactly like me. Andrea friended one of them years ago, has enjoyed getting to know him, reached out, he said “yes,” and now Andrea’s friend isn’t alone during a very challenging time.
That’s beautiful. That’s the power of conversation, connecting, and God.
One observation. One comment. One question. One conversation. One relationship. Then two. Three. More. Hope is transferred. Jesus is, too.