There’s A Story There

It’s easy to look at a situation and think we have all the facts necessary to make a snap judgement.  Whether it’s a homeless person on the street with a sign asking for money, or certain behavior or opinion we don’t agree with, it amazes me how quickly we can go from observation to judgement, without realizing that there’s a story there.

No matter who you’re looking at, there is a story behind the person that brought them to where they are at that moment.  This story could have been written over years or decades, or maybe even over a few minutes.  These stories can be tragic or triumphant.  They can be unbelievable or even quite ordinary.  Peoples’ stories are as unique and varied as the people they are about.

The thing to remember, especially when we start feeling judgmental, is that we usually don’t know the whole story that shape the people we see.  We think we do, but in reality, we are often just mentally filling in the blanks.  That said, it reminds me that perhaps in place of judgement toward others, we would do better to offer grace and remember that we likely don’t know the whole story.

It Was Fun To Watch

Last Sunday morning, my wife and I were having breakfast at a local restaurant in Bandon Oregon.  There was a friendly gentleman that was greeting people with a smile and seating people as they came in, or taking their name, if there would be a short wait.  He was fun to watch! 

What was most fun to observe was when a family of 5 came in and was waiting for a table.  They had only been waiting less than 5 minutes when they decided to leave.  Right after they walked out the door, the friendly host came by and called their name.  When no one responded, he asked one of the waitresses, “Where’s Jennifer?”  (The person who had just left.)  When he realized they had left, he actually went out to the parking lot to look for them.  I watched as he found them, and kindly informed them that he had a table all ready for them.  They came back in and sat down.

I LOVE this guy’s commitment to the business and the customer all at the same time!  From a business standpoint, he was able to save a sale that could have easily been lost.  From a customer standpoint, he wanted to make sure that this family didn’t go away and have to find another place to eat, and potentially wait in line there too.  Like I mentioned before; this guy was fun to watch!

I don’t know if he was the owner of the place or an employee, but regardless, he was carrying out his duties with kindness an excellence.  May he be a model for us as we serve others.

Leaving Room

I have been teaching an adult Sunday School class at our church for about 15 years, and each class is a highlight of my week.  One of my favorite attributes of the class is the participation by the attendees.  It’s less of a lecture/lesson format than it is a guided discussion.  I really enjoy this format because it leaves room for the unexpected to occur.

By the “unexpected”, I mean that our discussion and study has options as to where it goes.  As I prepare each week, I look at the section of Scripture we’ll be studying, and I put together a flow of some interesting points for us to discuss.  I do this instead of writing out a word-for-word lecture/lesson, because a written-out lesson would make it hard pursue people’s questions or thoughts they have in the moment that are relevant to our discussion.  If I have a written out word-for-word lecture that I feel I must follow, then I take out any room to explore a thought that’s not in my lesson. 

That would be a shame, because very often in class, someone has a thought or question that takes us in a direction that I had not planned to go, but that deepens our understanding of the Scripture we were looking at.  If I was insistent on tightly defining every lesson, we would have missed out on so many rich and meaningful discussions that have deepened our understanding of Scripture.

Are there areas in your life that could use a little less control in order to leave some room for unexpected pleasant surprises to occur?  Consider that question the next time you’re planning an event or having a conversation with someone. 

It’s good to have a plan, but it’s also good to leave room along the way for the unexpected.

Simply Reconnecting

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had some really nice encounters with friends I haven’t seen in a few years.  It reminds me how quick time goes and how easy it is to lose touch with someone.  It also reminds me that it’s also easy to reconnect.

My friend Bob, that I used to work with several years ago, reached out via email earlier this week to see if my email address was still good and what I was up to.  Per Bob’s suggestion, we’ll be meeting up for lunch next week to reconnect and catch up.  I really admire Bob’s initiative to simply send an email suggest going to lunch.  I’m so grateful that he did, and I can’t wait to see him.

Bob’s initiative got me thinking who I should reach out to and reconnect.  Perhaps his initiative has you thinking about a friend you’ve lost touch with that you can reconnect with too.  I encourage you to do like Bob did and simply send an email or make a phone call and reconnect.

I’ll be following Bob’s lead and texting my friend Dave after I submit this post.  It will be good to reconnect with him too.      

Small Talk

During a conversation last week, the topic of small talk came up, and the consensus from most people in the group was that they didn’t like small talk and would rather not engage in it.  It was interesting to me, because I use to feel this same way many moons ago, until I realized how significant small talk is in forming connections with others.

Small talk with folks you don’t know can sometimes feel like you’re just talking for the sake of talking, with nothing of any real importance to say.  That’s how I viewed it until I realized that small talk are the planks in a bridge that lead to deeper connection and conversations.  Think about it, when was the last time you met someone and immediately jumped into a deep and meaningful conversation right off the bat?  It usually doesn’t work that way for me, but I’m open to the idea that maybe I’m doing something wrong. 

Based on my own experience, most conversations I’ve had with people I’ve just met are a series of comments and questions and listening in an effort to find common ground that a more enjoyable conversation can be built on.  I look at it like fly fishing.  You throw something out (like the weather, career, what they/you did last weekend, where they/you live) and see what you get.  I’m amazed how often small talk leads to a “bite”. 

So, the next time you find yourself engaged in small talk, instead of telling yourself the same story about how much you don’t like it, instead think of yourself on a “connection fishing expedition”.  Who knows, you just might land a big one!

A Pleasantly Unexpected Perspective

This week I was at an equipment rental place renting a couple carpet blowers.  The need for the carpet blowers involved a bathroom remodel, a piece of less-than-adequate piece of cardboard, and a cat.  That’s a story for another day.  Rest assured; everything ended well.

While I was at the rental shop the employee (James) took me in back to show me the carpet blowers they had.  They looked good to me, so I said, “I’ll take 2 of them”.  James proceeded to take clean off the carpet blowers and carry both of them to the checkout stand.  I asked if I could carry one of them for him, but he said he had them, so we proceeded to the front to check out. 

As we headed toward the front, there was a door we had to go through that was closed.  I told James, “Here, let me get the door for you.  I might as well make myself useful”.  To which James replied, “You’re a customer.  I consider that itself being useful.”

I was pleasantly shocked.  From that statement, it’s clear that James doesn’t see customers to his shop as a burden or an annoyance, but rather as the reason he’s in business in the first place.  His comment seemed so contrary to other places we’ve all visited where, as a customer, we feel like an interruption or an irritation to the employees.  Based on James comment, I can guarantee that his is the only shop I’ll ever go to in the future when I need an equipment rental.

May we all take a page from James’s playbook and be mindful of the importance of the customers we may serve.

Smile Because It Happened

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”  ~Dr. Seuss

I came across this quote last week and it’s such a great reminder about perspective and also about how to handle ending. Since endings are a part of every life, it feels that this quote from Dr. Seuss is applicable for all of us.

There are a number of things that come to an end:

  • A season of life
  • An event
  • A place we enjoy visiting
  • A business we enjoy frequenting
  • A friendship
  • A life

To be clear, some of the endings on this list are more impactful than others, and deserve tears as part of the healing process.  That said, I think that remembering the experience or the person lost with smile, and gratitude for the experience, helps us move forward in away that allows us to remain open to new people and experiences yet to come.  What a shame it would be to close ourselves off to trying new things or getting close to people because we are afraid of the tears that may come with loss.

Dr. Seuss’s quote also reminds me that I don’t have to wait until something is over to smile about it.  I can do so even while it’s happening.  😊

Saying Yes

As I was sitting down to write my weekly blog post, I got a text asking if I’d like to come over to someone’s house for dinner.  Initially, I thought about all the stuff that I wanted to get done that night, and that I should say, “No”. However, I then pondered just how important, really, were the things I’d be doing if I said, “No” to the invitation.  I replied to the text with, “I’ll be there!”

Sometimes when we get opportunities to do things, we think about reasons that would keep us from saying, “Yes”.  I’m going to challenge that line of thinking and start looking for reasons to accept.  This is just another reminder for me to be intentional with my choices versus defaulting to getting stuff done.

Sorry for the short post this week, but I’ve got a dinner engagement to get to!

Don’t Let Fear Rule

“Fear rules us only if we let it.”  ~Brendon Burchard

I read this quote in Brendon’s book, “The Motivation Manifesto”.  It’s one of those statements that we would all say we know, but one that we also can be susceptible to if we aren’t paying attention.

The kind of fear Brendon is talking about is the type that keeps us from contributing at a higher level or being the person (or more of the person) we want to be.  Usually, this fear comes from the thought of failing, being rejected, looking foolish, or a host of other possibilities.  Nobody is interested in those things.  I certainly don’t wake up every day looking for experiences like that. 

However, if we allow those fears to rule our lives, we pay an unexpected, and very high price.  That price comes in the form of unrealized potential, impact, contribution, and happiness.  That seems like a steep price to pay all for the alleged security of not looking foolish or failing.  It seems like there’s a higher price to be paid for letting fear rule.

To be clear, we should be listening to fear when our personal safety is at risk.  But the fear we should be on the look out for is the fear that keeps us from our goals and potential. 

There is an abundant life waiting.  Don’t let needless fear stand in the way. 

Reminder To Enjoy It

On Wednesday, my wife informed me that the place we board our cats when we travel will be closing down.  This is a bummer for us, because we really enjoyed this place.  Whenever we dropped our cats off, we never worried about them because they received excellent care, and were always in great shape when we returned.  We will miss this place.

Again, I’m reminded of the importance of appreciating those things (and people) we enjoy while we have them, because so often things change, and they’re gone.

Be on the look out for those things you currently enjoy and look upon them with gratitude and thanksgiving, while you still have them.  And remember, while change can be sad or frustrating, it is also the vehicle by which exciting new things come into our lives.