I have a confession to make. I love talking with people but I get very anxious when I am in a position where I need to begin a conversation with a total stranger.
Those of you who know me personally might find this revelation hysterical. I can talk a mile a minute and I love conversation and I love getting to know people. But sometimes I completely freeze up just trying to initiate conversation.
If I am selling things at a Hungarian festival, I don’t have a problem initiating a discussion because someone is coming up to me and is likely interested in what I am selling. But have me seated next to a stranger in a social situation and I really struggle to find my “opening line”. I am sure I overthink it.
But meeting new people and engaging in conversation is so much fun. I am rewarded every time I do it because I learn so much and the conversation is always interesting. And yet I still overthink my opening line so much that I am inhibited to start. I think I am overly concerned I will offend people or appear intrusive. I want to fix that!
There is so much to learn from the people around us. Taking time to have conversation is important. It is easy to become isolated because there is so much tension. There is definitely an art to conversation these days, but there is also a ministry in conversation. With so many people pulled in so many directions it is easy for those who might need a little extra time or encouragement to talk be bowled-over by those who are impatient and in a rush.
Do I take the time to connect with the people God has placed around me?
The life stories I have heard range from heartbreaking to encouraging. Each situation has some nugget of wisdom for me to learn. While there is an art to listening I think the ministry opportunity is in the conversation. Most people will talk for the interaction, not just to hear themselves ramble on… and both parties can gain tremendous insights about one another as well as themselves when there is a dialogue.
This week, try to look at conversation as ministry and consider how the exchange of experiences and insights benefits both participants in conversation. Remember: being hospitable isn’t something you have to be at home to do! You can be a welcoming and friendly face in a place you have never been before.
On the Road,
We have learned so much about ourselves and others on this trip! We’ve met and visited with people with fascinating life stories. I love to listen to stories. There is so much that can be learned by listening.
We were in Albuquerque for a Hungarian event yesterday and we had dinner with a couple of friends from my college days in Nebraska. We chatted for several hours last night to catch up on kids and life stuff. It was wonderful to reconnect and hear about what was happening in their lives.
During the course of the conversation, we talked about their son’s love for Hungary, a recent trip they took to Europe, and her grandmother’s Hungarian heritage (this was news to me!). Her grandparents ran a “Magyar Cukrazda” (Hungarian Bakery) in New York City in the Hungarian area of Manhattan–just around the corner from the Magyar Ház (Hungarian House)! Wow! We have been to that area frequently since we moved to New York. Back in the day, there were many Hungarian businesses in that area. In fact, I often run into people who lament about how easy it was to access Hungarian things in NYC and are frustrated so few businesses remain. It is just a little wild to me that someone I know from over 30 years ago has such a close connection to where I live now.
The things we don’t know!
Sometimes they are fun connections–like the one I described with my friends from college. Other times they are very difficult life stories that finally come to light after years of processing.
Everyone has a story that is worth hearing. And everyone has a story worth sharing. You never know what you will learn about someone when they start to share about their lives. Maybe the biggest challenge with getting to know one another’s stories is taking or having the time to listen. I know that has been a challenge in my life depending on the season I am going through. But I need to be more intentional about listening.
You never know what you will learn!
When people share difficult stories, it is hard to know what to do with what I have learned. Heartaches, struggles, and joys are all a part of the human experience. We can learn a lot by listening and it can inform our praying.
As you spend time with people this week, think about what they are saying and consider what you learn as “prayer points”. Then pray for them. Sometimes that is the best gift!
On the Road,