Friday, June 3, 2011

People's Stories Matter

Break from ATV's for quick pic
Anticipating the Memorial Day holiday, my wife and I decided to use the time to go on vacation for a week to Costa Rica.  (I did not anticipate that I'd have to take a midterm exam before the holiday break was over.)  This vacation provided a much needed mental break, but also served to give my wife and I some uninterrupted time away together.  Running our company together keeps us extremely busy, but now with the added time required for grad school, there's not much time left for us.  This trip also taught me some deeper things about myself, as well as others.

I had not prepared for this trip at all.  Antoinette had taken care of all of the details - flights, hotel, transportation, etc...and she did a great job putting that all together!  When we arrived at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, we had to wait for 3 hours for our shuttle to come pick us up and take us to Manuel Antonio.  We decided to wait just outside the airport where everyone catches their transportation or crosses the street into the parking garage for their own car.

As we exited the airport to sit on a bench outside, we were bombarded by a dozen men asking us if we needed a taxi or help with our luggage.  They couldn't understand why we were coming outside without catching a taxi or leaving the area, so they'd check with us multiple times to see if we wanted a taxi.  As we sat down on a bench, up walks "Freddy" to explore further about our travel plans and transportation.  Freddy was difficult to communicate with as he knew little English and I knew even less Spanish.  Immediately, I was struck with the wonder of what was Freddy's story and began wondering if the week would involve any meaningful conversations with others, because of the language barrier.  If you know me, you know I like to learn people's stories.

Over the course of three hours, Freddy and I would engage each other in sporadic short questions about one another and then try to figure out what each other was saying.  Freddy is in his mid-50's, a father of 5 children (he showed us their pictures) and would come to the airport to work for tips as he would offer to help people with their luggage.  As I watched Freddy, I saw a hard-working and kind gentleman that was liked by all of the employees working outside at the airport.  At one point I went to buy Antoinette and I bottled waters, so I got an extra one and gave it to Freddy.  I then witnessed the beauty of community when Freddy took a couple of swallows of water then offered the bottle to those around him to have a nice cold swallow as well.  Freddy serves those around him selflessly.
Enriquez w/ Ant & I

My experience with Freddy made me realize that the week could hold endless possibilities in encounters if I was intentional and creative about it.

So over the course of the week, I was able to learn the stories of several people on this trip, both Ticos and Americans.  Some whose stories that will have a lasting impact with me like Enriquez, Maday, Ivania, Alex, Alexander,  Joe & Heidi, Josh & Shauna, and others.

Even with language barriers, showing interest in someone's story will always make them come alive and will open a whole new level of understanding with that person.  The main thing this trip has taught me is that if you want to really know about someone:
  • Be intentional
  • Show genuine, authentic interest in them
  • Listen, Listen, Listen
  • Ask probing, but not nosey questions about them
  • Be grateful for their time
When we take our eyes off ourselves and invest the time and effort to get to know others, a whole new level of community opens up.  The walls that people typically exist behind are replaced by a vulnerable beauty that is drawn to the surface from authentic meaningful conversation.

Who will you engage today in authentic conversation and listen to the beauty of their story?

Would love to know your thoughts and ideas regarding authentic conversation.

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