God teaches me these lessons through the books I read and the people I hang around with and listen to.
The name of this blog "As long as you live, keep learning how to live" is what it's all about and I take it very seriously.
Enter my dear friend and co-worker, Susan.
She's one of my life teachers. Maybe she doesn't know it, but she is. Susan's the one on the right. Wanda is on the left and she teaches me, too. But that is a story for another day.
Susan personifies the phrase "doesn't know a stranger". She thinks nothing of starting up conversations with random people at the store or out at a restaurant. Time after time she entertains us at lunch with her adventures in conversing with strangers. Her story usually goes something like this:
(You'll need to read this a bit like a southern belle.)
"Y'all, you're not gonna believe what happened to me this weekend. David and I were just sitting and waiting to be seated at Charleston's. Of course I started up a conversation with the another couple waiting. You know me - just trying to be friendly. Well, their names are Roger and Patricia and you know what we discovered? Back when we lived in Indiana, we lived next door to Patricia's nephew's high school girlfriend. Can you believe that? It is such a small world."This type of thing happens so often with Susan that I've thought we should call her "6 Degree Sue" because she can connect her life with anybody.
But seriously folks...truthfully, Susan's experiences aren't merely freaky coincidences. The reason they happen is because she is willing to be bold enough to strike up conversations with any joe or flo schmo.
Now me?? Not so much. I'm more of a silent type and when I'm waiting in line at Target, I don't even want to make eye contact with the person ahead of me, much less engage in small talk with him or her.
So....part of learning to live is being willing to take risks and step out of my comfort zone from time to time. A couple of years ago, inspired by Susan, I decided to make a conscious effort to try engaging in friendly conversations with people I don't know. I don't do it all the time, just sometimes. It's not pretty. It's awkward... similar to me on ice skates. I can stay upright on an ice rink and keep moving forward, but it's just not very attractive. Every encounter has been positive, but usually very brief, and definitely not long enough to discover that my second cousin was a college roommate to the stranger's brother-in-law. I'll have to keep practicing to arrive at that point.
My best experience with this life skill actually happened a few days ago and is what prompted me to write about this topic. I was at an iPhone repair kiosk at the mall getting the glass on my phone replaced. The guy said it would take about 15 minutes. I was about to go do some window shopping when I stopped and decided this would be a good opportunity to practice friendly conversation. I asked the guy - Derrick - if I could just watch. He said sure and so I watched. Silently.
Then I remembered I was supposed to talk. I asked him if fixing glass on iPhones kept him busy and that was all it took. We talked non-stop for the entire repair. The topics of conversation ranged from alligators as pets to how big the screen is at Dallas Cowboys stadium. We even showed each other our glass scars. He has a lot of scars on his fingers from working with phone glass and I have an impressive design of scars on my right hand and wrist from a glass accident I had years ago.
Experiences like this give me the encouragement I need to keep it up. My default setting will always be "I don't want to talk to you - just leave me alone." That's OK. I know how to adjust my settings when necessary.