Getting to Know Each Other Differently

If money were no object, where would you go in the world and how long would you stay and why? When I facilitate new groups, I often have us introduce ourselves and then answer a question that might help us get to know each other in ways we might not always think to ask. It’s an interesting question – where might our dream journeys take us and why might we want to travel there? Sometimes people want to experience the beauty they’ve seen in pictures or heard from people. Sometimes it’s a particular monument or museum or canyon or rock formation or maybe some water running over an edge into a deep crevasse. Sometimes it has a historical bent, where battles have occurred or races were won or Olympics were held or peace treaties were signed. Sometimes there is a particular experience to have. I had a friend who travelled to Oberammergau in Germany in 1990 for the Passion of Christ play which has been performed there every 10 years since 1634. The village vowed that if they were spared from the Black Plague sweeping through Europe they would put on the play every decade in perpetuity. They have kept true to their pledge and the next performance is in 2020. I know, right – who knew? Sometimes the experience is climbing mountains – Everest, Kilimanjaro, the annual run up Pike’s Peak. Sometimes it’s concerts or art museums or marathons or walking in the paths of Jesus or Paul or even John Wesley in England. We are each unique in our interests and it’s amazing where our minds take us when the limits are removed.

If you could spend two hours with anyone in the world, living or dead, who is NOT a family member, with whom would you spend that time and why? The answers to that question are ALWAYS interesting. For some it’s historic political figures like Abe Lincoln or Eleanor Roosevelt or Dwight D. Eisenhower. For others it’s great musicians or artists or authors and poets and playwrights. For some it’s sports figures who changed the nature of the game from Jim Thorpe to Wilma Rudolph, to Billie Jean King or Arthur Ashe, to Bear Bryant or John Wooden or Pat Summit – the University of Tennessee Women’s basketball coach who won more games and championships than any in history. Still others want to spend time with faith figures – you know Jesus or Paul or Peter or Moses – there might be that language barrier and perhaps a bit of confrontation around how our life of faith is going, so that tends to be a little intimidating and off-putting to some of us. *snort* But still, how interesting it would be to hear their thoughts and perspectives and ideas and what went into the decisions they made and the leadership they shared and what they valued in life.

What was your favorite song when you were in high school? Your favorite kind of music? If you’ve been to a concert, who was the first band or artist you saw perform live, and where? What I love about this question is that often when people say their favorite song in high school or college, they spontaneously start singing it and if there are others in the room who know it, they smile and start singing along. I. Love. That! It’s amazing what remembering a song or a kind of music brings back in memories and life experience that most often brings smiles, and giggles, and often a willingness to share what was happening when that song played. Elvis? The Beatles? Osmond Brothers? The Jackson Five? The new movie music biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Queen is now the second-highest grossing music movie ever, and I’ve heard it’s not to be missed. You know I can sing all the words to that song because it hit right in the middle of my junior high school years! If you’re interested, I can break out my rendition anytime you’d like. *snort*

If you could accomplish anything in the span of life that is yours, what would be your hope and dream to accomplish? For many it’s to raise their children well and for them to have happy and meaning-filled lives. For some it’s to leave some part of the world better than they found it. For others it’s to complete a project or an idea or develop or create a vaccine or invent a new way to do something that works for the common good. For others it’s a dream to solve world hunger or provide access to clean water and holistic healthcare. For some it’s creating an environment for others to grow into their best selves, to learn how to support and offer strength, to communicate in ways that inspire and encourage those we see and with whom we share life and the world. I’m getting a little over-the-top pastor-y with this part, I guess. It’s never a bad thing to stop ourselves every now and again and think about a larger purpose that God may have for our lives than we ordinarily give ourselves time to reflect. This quote from Mitch Albom’s book “Tuesdays with Morrie” is one I keep close at hand:

“Morrie, true to these words, had developed his own culture – long before he got sick. Discussion groups, walks with friends, dancing to his music in the Harvard Square church. He started a project called Greenhouse, where poor people could receive mental health services. He read books to find new ideas for his classes, visited with colleagues, kept up with old students, wrote letters to distant friends. He took more time eating and looking at nature and wasted no time in front of TV sitcoms or ‘Movies of the Week.’ He had created a cocoon of human activities – conversations, interactions, affection – and it filled his life like an overflowing soup bowl.”

We move into the Thanksgiving gatherings and upcoming Christmas season parties that I hope will be spent with our loved ones and friends and colleagues and acquaintances and neighbors from our particular ‘hoods and conversations that will quickly tell us whether our perspectives are harmonious or not likely to be so harmonious. And we have choices – we can take on those conversations with the understanding that we’re not likely to change anyone’s mind and seek to participate anyway, modeling respect and dignity and committing to finding creative ways for those moments not to escalate past friendliness. OR we can decide to ask questions that help us get to know one another in different ways with different subject areas and with the possibility that we learn things about other people that we wouldn’t likely know any other way. And maybe in the learning about each other before the differences in politics and religion and economics occur, those subject areas become less hardful and hurtful in the long run.

Happy turkeys and dressings and footballs and board games, and family and friend and community gatherings that have all the things that make us who we are as a wonderfully abundant and peculiar and beloved people!! And travel safely and bless the Highway Patrolmen and the work they do and may they be looking east when I’m heading west!