I sat through a dinner the other evening that was fun. The people were kind and outgoing, the food was delicious and we passed it around and shared it well. The restaurant was lovely and the conversation was great. I left the dinner with a wealth of ideas, thoughts, and personalities to think about. My brain raced through the night and into the next day.
Did I say the conversation was great? Well. It was great – when I actually understood it.
The problem is, the conversation revolved around several hot political and cultural topics that I know little about and honestly don’t care to know more about. They are not topics that bothered me before the dinner so I had limited thoughts and even fewer opinions to offer the group. Besides, any opinions I thought I might have were not near as well-thought-out or passionate as those around me. The other people at the dinner had a lot to say and they were able to engage in this robust interaction with each other about some pretty heated current events. It was fascinating to be on the outside. And if I’m honest, a little awkward.
I found myself asking (myself) the question, “What do I do when I have no input into what they are talking about and don’t feel comfortable pretending to?”
I am not completely sure what the answer is, but at the moment I resorted to ‘snack, smile, listen.’ So I snacked on the appetizers we shared. I smiled from time to time in admiration of their knowledge and wit. And I listened intently. It’s not that I have never been in this situation. I have been in it many times, but this time was so intimate. It was a small group and everyone was involved in the conversation except me. It wasn’t that I was bored; I was ignorant. I felt clueless about their savviness on current events and I felt inferior to their opinions on the matters.
I was also, however, intrigued, interested and grateful.
I am comfortable in my skin when having little to offer. In other words, I wasn’t worried about what they thought of my silence. I’m well aware that we all have interests, observations, education, and opinions on different topics. This just wasn’t one of mine. I was, however, challenged to be teachable at that moment. To be a good student and a good listener. Perhaps I won’t leave with their views, but I’m always a fan of a good conversation that gets my tired brain moving in a different direction. I want to be a well rounded human being and what better opportunity than a group like this one.
They were not my family, my village, my best friends or my coworkers. We all seemingly have little in common besides the one single thing that brought us together. It would be easy for me to think, “these are not my people” and walk away (mentally or physically), but I am reminded of how much growth I need. We all need it.
I have learned to embrace these moments.
I always tell my kids, “God gives us trains, so we will take some time to pray” because … what else are you gonna do when a train is rolling by, ruining your schedule, and inconveniencing everything it encounters? You could nap; you could pray. You can always choose to embrace it because you’ve likely noticed, frustration doesn’t speed up a freight train.
So I enjoy embracing these moments with people who are nothing like me. They allow me to step outside my comfortable life and embrace our differences. They grant me the opportunity to love others where they are and learn something new. These moments also remind me of my human obligation to care about hard things. Things that are hard to think about, hard to face and hard to talk about. Think, face and talk about them anyway. It matters.
I have seen many people awkwardly try to fit into a conversation they had no business trying to fit into. I have also seen many pause and embrace.