Different Lives

As part of my kick off to the shorter days and darker nights of the fall season, I’ve begun reading a couple hours in the evening before bed most weeknights. The last 2 books I’ve read have been autobiographies, and from them, I’ve been reminded (of the obvious) that people have different backgrounds and experiences than I have.

The first book I read was from a man whose father was Nigerian and whose mother was from Kansas.  The focus of the book was on the influences of the 7 “fathers” this man had in his life that shaped and mentored him into the person he is today. 

The second book (that I’m actually still reading) is about the bass player for the band Guns N Roses, and his journey through music, drugs, addition, and recovery.  Let’s just say that this guy had a wild ride!

What I appreciate about both of these books is that they gave me a glimpse into another person’s life.  From that, I see how their experiences, fears, and desires influenced their thought process, and, ultimately, the choices they made, both when they were younger, and now that they’re older.

When I learn about the experiences, challenges, and struggles other people have faced, whether directly from them, or reading about it in a book, I find that it causes me to be less judgmental, especially when I don’t know their story.  It’s easy to cast judgement through the filter of my own experiences.  Occasionally, those judgements are correct.  More often though, I realize that things aren’t usually as black and white as my experience would say that they are.  I find that my initial snap judgements are often unwarranted, due to my lack of understanding and consideration of their experiences.

I’m grateful for opportunities to learn more about peoples’ lives, either through books or in person.     

Advertisement

Reconnecting

On June 11th, I wrote a post titled, “Simply Reconnecting”.  At the end of the post, I mentioned that I was going to reconnect with my friend Dave.  Well, a couple of days ago, we got together for a visit.  We met at 3:30 in the afternoon and we didn’t say “good bye”, until just before 10:00 PM.  The time flew by. 

I hadn’t seen Dave for 6 years, but as soon as we sat down, we picked up right where we left off.  It was so much fun to reconnect and catch up on what we’ve each been up to.  At one point, Dave was talking about how much he enjoys observing someone who is excellent at what they do, regardless of their occupation.  At that point, I thought to myself, “That’s why I like Dave.  He’s my kind of person”.

If you have a friend you’ve been meaning to get in touch with, I’d recommend you do that immediately.  While there’s nothing to be gained by waiting, there is tremendous blessing in connecting today.

On Apologizes

This week, I had an interaction with someone where I could have behaved better than I did. What I knew I needed to do was offer an apology. Here’s the thing, when we know we need to make an apology: we can come up with all sorts of reasons not to.

It’s no different for me either. In fact, I was running through several reasons why I didn’t need to make the apology. My lame excused ranged from, “They probably don’t even remember the incident” to “I’ve got other things I need to be doing” to every other excuse in between. I told you they were lame.

In the end, I made the apology before my workday started. I decided it was, indeed, important and needed to be done. The person who I apologized to was gracious and said that they appreciated it.

All that to say, if you owe someone an apology, make it. Don’t wait, or put it off, or think of reasons to keep from doing it, because the person you owe the apology to deserves it.

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!

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!

Incorrect Assumptions

A couple of weeks ago in the adult Sunday school class I lead, I made a comment about a section of Scripture.  To preface my comment I stated, “We all know this […]”.  After some discussion, one of the newer people in the class spoke up and said, “You mentioned that ‘we all know this’, but I DON’T know this.”  The comment got my attention.

It’s so easy to assume that just because we know something, everyone else must obviously know it as well.  I was reminded that this is usually not the case.  For me, it’s important to be aware of this reality, so that I don’t inadvertently exclude people from classroom discussions, dialog in a meeting, or even a simple conversation by assuming they know what is being discussed.

I like to include people versus excluding them.  What I learned from the Sunday school class exchange is to stop assuming that folks know something and actually give space to check that assumption.  If my assumption is correct, great!  We can move forward.  If, however, my assumption is incorrect, then that presents a great opportunity for discussion to help bring others along, and event to learn something new myself.

There’s enough division and exclusion going on in the world, that I don’t need to add to it in my conversations and interactions.  How much better it is to test and assumption and gain clarification, than to move forward with the assumption, only to find out that it was incorrect.

I’m Glad I Noticed

I’ve been playing the electric bass guitar on the worship team at my church for about 3 years.  One of the many things I enjoy about being on the worship team is the view I get from being on stage.  It’s fun to look out and see the people in the audience and even the others on stage.  And sometimes, I’m fortunate to see things other people don’t.

For example, last week during the service, we had a young family come up and read some Scripture as part of the fourth Sunday of Advent.  The family consisted of mom, dad, and two young boys, who had to be about 4 and 7.  They stood in front of me and to the right, not more than about 10 feet away.

Mom and dad each read a section of scripture before handing the microphone to the 7-year-old, who began reading his lines in a nervous young voice.  As I was watching from behind, I noticed the dad place his hand on his oldest son’s shoulder in a gesture of support.  As the boy began to read, the dad moved his hand and began gently scratching the boys back, to provide comfort and reassure him that he was doing just fine.  It was a beautiful picture of a father being present.  I’m grateful that I had a front row seat to this event… and I’m glad I noticed.

From an elderly husband holding a door open for his wife, to a reassuring touch to a child from a loving parent, to a heart-felt slap on the back from a good friend, these types of touching scenes are happening all around us, and they often go unnoticed. 

I encourage you to keep your eyes open for these occurrences around you.  Not only will it make you feel good, but may it also encourage us to go and do likewise to those we care about. 

On The Other Side

“What’s it like on the other side of me?”  ~ Pastor Amy

During the sermon at church last week, one of our pastors referenced this question that she often asks herself in relation to what it’s like for others to interact with her.  I though it was a great question I should start asking myself!

We all know what it’s like to be us.  We’re aware of our opinions, our values, and what we think.  However, are we aware of how those opinions come across when we’re talking to others?  Are we aware of possible no verbal signals, attitudes, tones of voice, judgement, or perceptions we may not mean to send, that others experience when communicating with us?

Pastor Amy’s question causes me to think about how I treat others (intentionally or unintentionally) when communicating with them.  It reminds me that communication is so much more than just words.