Years ago I was in Arkansas, doing tornado clean-up. I had been assigned to clean debris from the backyard of a home where a young family had lost their 2-year-old son in the storm. It was a mere 2 weeks after the event, and a somber place to be, but the family wasn’t home, so I set out with large plastic bags and set a goal to my task: to get all these ruined child toys and clothes out of sight so the family wouldn’t have to clean it up themselves, or even see them, later on.
I worked fast and hard. I had a task to do. But then a lady I didn’t know came into the back yard. She made her way over and began to talk about the tornado. I nodded, said a word here and there, but continued with my task – and she just kept on talking. Then she began to talk about the family of this house - her daughter, husband, and their child – her grandson.
I finally stopped picking up trash, sat down by her and just listened. She probably went through the entire scenario 3 different ways. I listened as if each time she was telling a different story. My task was trash detail and it was interrupted, but my purpose was to stop that task and sit with Margaret and listen to her talk about her grandson, Jake. The purpose superseded the task. The purpose was to connect with Margaret that afternoon.
My part of that connection was easy – listen, nod, just fully be there. We’re a task-oriented society, so of course the hard part was letting go of my task – that goal I set of getting-it-all-done. It was a huge life-lesson to learn. Relationship, by whatever form it may take: Connection, communication, camaraderie. That’s what it’s all about.
Suzette spoke no Spanish. Marta spoke no English. They spent an evening together In Venezuela “discussing” the Bible. How could this be? It started with a big, open, engaging smile and somehow evolved into both of them having their Bibles open, figuring out how to find the same chapter & verse in their respective native-language Bibles. One showed the other her favorite verse, and so on. They compared the words. Everyone knows Juan means John, and God is Dios. They discovered “cognates” – words that look alike in both languages, such as gloria meaning glory, discípulo is disciple, etc. When the word “mujeres” came up, Marta pointed to herself until Suzette figured it out – women. There was a bit of pantomiming and some drawing of simple pictures to relate a meaning, but most of all an understanding between the two of them. Neither had asked me to translate, and I wouldn’t dare interrupt their wonderful communication skills! In this instance there was connection, communication, and a resulting camaraderie. Relationship. That’s what it’s all about!
Chapel Hill will be offering a Fall series called ‘All In’ which will teach skills in making a connection with people we don’t know – or even creating a better connection with people we sort of know. It’s a skill that can be learned – and I promise you – the rewards are tremendous.
This class will actually concentrate more on verbal skills – small talk – but this helps to create attitude of openness to new people and eventually can lead to openness to new experiences, which the mission field is all about – whether inside Chapel Hill’s doors, around our neighborhood and city, or off to some foreign location. What’s it all about? Come find out. Be a part of it. Just say YES!