Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hey Mister, tell me your story...

Let's admit it, folks; we like to talk about ourselves. There is something about being asked to tell some part of our story that just makes us feel good. For me, telling my story has served as one of the greatest reminders of God's faithfulness in my life. I can get all kinds of ungrateful and cynical sometimes, until someone asks me my story and I am suddenly caught up in telling the tale of how God has walked right into the middle of my messy life and made all things new.

God does that- he weaves incredible stories. And yet, we are so often less than interested in asking others to tell us theirs, in taking the time to listen to the tales God has woven. Two things brought this to mind recently.

The first reminder came as I rode a Greyhound bus from Colorado Springs to my parents' house near Aspen. Few places offer better people-watching than a Greyhound. I have spent trips sitting next to lounge workers from Vegas, ski bums from Australia, and perhaps my favorite- a slightly mentally retarded man who was very sweet but was semi-obsessed with wanting to touch my nose. For part of this week's journey, I found myself seated next to a man who spoke no English, yet was even too shy to speak Spanish with me. He carried with him a small bag and a large, white box, which he kept at his feet (it took up all the foot space, actually, and looked rather uncomfortable). He was on his way to Vail. I found myself thinking, "What is this man going to do in Vail? What's in that box? Is he really just shy? What kind of life did (does?) he have in Mexico?" In other words, I wanted to know his story.

My second reminder came as I sat in the car with my dad yesterday, 4-wheeling over a nearby mountain pass. I began asking him questions and learned so many things about his life. I finally learned the details about how he met John Denver (who became one of his best friends). I heard about some of his old girlfriends, and when he first moved from California to Aspen, and how he later traveled the whole country trying to decide where to start a restaurant, only to end up in the rather boring town of Modesto. All this time, my dad has been full of good stories, and I have simply never asked.

How many incredible tales must be out there! Stories of sadness and hilarity, of courage and adventure, of love and loss. They are all around us every day, and yet we may not even know the stories of those closest to us. If you really think about it, though, asking people about their lives should be a mark of those of us who are Christians. Jesus always wanted to listen to people, to really hear their hearts and needs. That's one of the best things about the Gospel, isn't it? The God of the universe cares about our fairly insignificant stories. He cares about our lives.

I imagine it would take a little more selflessness on my part- a change of paradigm, perhaps- before I really started learning to take the time and ask the questions. But I imagine a lot would change, both in my heart and in the way that I reflect Jesus, if I would just learn to pause and say, "Hey Mister, tell me your story..."


betadance said...

Great thoughts! I was just thinking about this the other day...I want to ask my dad to tell me about his time stationed in Okinawa with the Army circa Vietnam. At some point it hits you--stories will die if not shared. And I want to know the stories.

Olin said...

A nose fetish eh? I've never had anyone want to touch my nose. At times when I have had a military haircut occasionally people want to feel that by running their fingers against the grain-but that's not quite as intrusive as someone touching your face.

I think conversation with people can be challenging at times. Your right; I think most people like to talk and tell their story, but it can be like talking to the hollogram in I-Robot-asking the right question is key.