Having a 3 year old results in being invited to other children's birthday parties. After attending many of these recently, it has become apparent that parents of young kids do not know how to engage in conversations with other parents of young children. Here is the scene:
The kids are playing in some communal play area. Bounce houses are common. The adults stand around the communal play area most with a beverage while some are dealing with their kid who is "shy" (Jude is usually the shy type in this setting). Small talk consists of conversations from parents to their children to ensure they are not hurting some other kid. Other than that, most adults do not seem to want to or know how to engage in conversation with other adults. Going to the bathroom or getting something to eat or drink are common activities as a way to get a break from these socially silent adult groupings.
It is painful at times.
Estee and I are people who will ask others questions about who they are and what they do and what their interests are. This skill set, once thought as being natural to all human adults and as common as the skill set of shoe lace tying, is now a bit of an anomaly in these settings.
I had a 15 minute "conversation" with a guy who sold name tags for a living. When I say conversation I really just mean I am asking questions and the man replies with short terse responses. One would think he did not want to talk but he never got up to leave in the silent times. He just sat their telling me about the fantastic world of name tagging in tweet-like responses to questions.
It has been described to me that great conversation is like playing tennis. Someone serves, another returns it, then there is a back and fort that ensues. Only to reach a "point" then another serve is given. However, what is happening is that it is only one person doing the serving in these birthday conversations, and my shoulder hurts. Ultimately, these "conversations" are not fun, not memorable and energy draining.
And we perpetuate these conversations in Church.
Each Sunday morning worship, there is a moment in which everyone is invited to stand and greet those around you. As a friendly church, we all stand and share kind words and introduce ourselves to guests in our midst. However most of the time that moment feels like we are throwing out phrases which may or may not “land” on the minds of our neighbors.
“Hello I’m Jason, nice to meet you.” That is the end of my greeting to you. I threw the greeting our there, and it is now your job to remember it, because I threw it to you. Which explains why we feel guilty when we cannot remember the name of a person we have “known” for years; they already threw us their name, and like a stone being tossed in a lake, we cannot ask them to re-throw the stone!
|Boomerang and Conversation|
Instead of throwing stones as a greeting, what if we threw boomerangs? What if we threw things that came back to us later? For instance, a boomerang greeting might be, ‘Hello I’m Jason and I love the music in worship, at the end of worship I would be curious to know what you found uplifting.”
A boomerang is thrown and will come back to you both after worship so we can develop further conversation with this person. Asking open ended questions during greeting time allows us to shift from stone to boomerang throwing. Boomerang comments allow for future relationship growth, and let’s face it boomerangs are much more interesting than stones.