On what you can expect when you expect something

ec22c64c1cc09e0a_3d-audience.previewA couple of months ago, about a week before Christmas, a thought occurred to me.  As I am wont to do nowadays, I condensed it to less than 141 characters (including spaces!) and tweeted it.  Here’s what I sent out to the world:

If a gift is given with an expectation of the receiver, then there is no gift, simply and exchange of a thing.

I didn’t think much about it.  Not too much comes from any of my activity on Twitter, and that’s fine with me.

But, something pretty cool happened that day.  Somehow, Pam Grier (yes, you read that right– Foxy Brown!!) came upon my tweet and retweeted it.  What that means is that she sent my little thought out to everyone who follows her.  With my name attached to it, Ms. Grier sent my tweet to over 500,000 people.

Evidently, it registered with many of those who saw it, because a few hundred of them retweeted it themselves.  I’m not sure exactly how many people have seen the tweet to this day, but I was blown away by the power of our modern-day methods of communication.

People talk listen on tin can phone communication

When I think about all of that, what occurs to me is that we really have no idea how significant each one of us truly is.  What we say matters.  What we will do on this day reverberates throughout the universe in the same way waves are created by the butterfly’s wings.

Now, that might only be a figurative statement and it might also be literal, too; I’m no scientist.  But, what I do know for sure is this: whenever we do or say a thing, after we’ve done or said it, whoever receives that piece of communication makes it mean something to them.  Sometimes that meaning is life-changing.  You never know.  What happens from there is so often out of our hands.  Even so, the next move is ours, and that move begins with us releasing our intentions without any expectations of the receiver.

Let me explain what I mean in this way.

I recently closed a production of the play, The Diary Of Anne Frank at The Media Theater in Pennsylvania.  During the run, we performed several student matinees for high school students.  Many of the students had never seen a live theater production before, and this particular play is not the easiest piece to see as your first.

Throughout the performance, they reacted as most audiences prior to them had reacted.  But, every so often some of the kids reacted to certain characters and moments in scenes in ways that most adults might consider inappropriate–laughing when you might expect a more serious attitude, murmuring to one another when you might expect silence, even occasionally talking back to a character (a character, mind you, not an actor).

Some involved in the production were concerned with the reactions of some of these students in attendance, but the more I thought about it, the more I was thrilled.  You see, these kids were engaged.  They were participating in the communication.  As far as I noticed, none of them were playing with their cell phones or whispering about how they might end up missing lunch.  They were fully engaged with the story and emotionally invested in what was being offered to them.  How could we really ask for more than that?

To have someone respond to your communication in the exact manner you expect them to limits the possibilities of how you can impact the lives of another, and how they, in turn, might surprise your own life with what they can bring to it.

Recently I decided that I’m a huge fan of mystery.  I believe that faith and mystery are such close bedfellows that any attempt to remove mystery from my life has a tremendously negative effect on my faith; not just in God, but in my fellow humans, as well.

I have found that when I concentrate on giving my communication away as a truly well-intended gift and leave what comes next to the mysterious unknowing that is another’s response, my life is richer, fuller and far more satisfying.

Now, that’s not to say that miscommunication doesn’t ever happen.  On the contrary, it happens often.  But, if I take responsibility for all of my communication, both how it is released (intention) and what meaning is made from it (someone’s response), I am, myself, engaged with the world in a way that makes for a heck of a thrill ride in this life.

I pray that my intentions bless your life.  I pray that you receive my intentions in that way.  But, no matter what, I choose to participate in the great mystery that envelops all that we do and say to each other.

I wish you peace.

________________

Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

 

You Understand Me?: Thoughts on our desire to be heard and understood

Successful-Stock-Trader-UnderstandI’ve been having some serious discussions lately, some at Church, some with my wife, and some with my buddy.  All of which have to do with one serious subject or another.

I mention this because I’ve noticed something about myself:  If you disagree with me, it’s simply because I haven’t made myself clear enough.

Narcissistic?  Perhaps a tad!

When I realized this, it made me think about why I might feel this way.  I really don’t think it is entirely about me being so self-centered.  When I stop and think about it, I know that it’s very probable that someone may hear me, understand me, and simply disagree with me. (Why, I have no idea!  Ha!)

All kidding aside, though, when I reflect on the reason I struggle with this kind of thinking, I think it comes down to the fact that one of my greatest desires in life is to be clear, to be fully heard, and to be understood.  Don’t we all want that?  Don’t we all want to be fully heard and understood?  I think we do, but often, at least in my case, that desire is accompanied with a nice, healthy dash of wanting to be right.

How important is it, in the end, for me to be right?  I certainly don’t think that any conversation about politics, religion, or football draft picks is worth any amount of hurt feelings.

My wife and I have a friend who’s Russian.  She’s married to a man from Poland and their two boys were born in the States.  The boys speak splendid English, while Mom and Dad can only speak broken English to each other.  Talk about communication barriers!

Anyway, when we talk, she’s always saying in the middle of sentences, “You understand me?”

Sometimes I feel so sad for her.  Her greatest desire is to be understood.

So, I’ll continue to try to be clear, and at the end of the day, pray that whoever ends up on the receiving end of my communication gets my point.

You understand me?

 

 

Follow Scott on Twitter–@scotylang

The man with ears on his heart

listeningThere was a man who spent his days at the homeless shelter in the heart of a city serving meals to those who came to seek shelter.  He not only served the food, but also liked to move through the cafeteria and strike up conversations with the guests while they ate.

One day, the man sat down beside a woman he had never seen before and began to speak with her. The woman immediately felt very comfortable with the man and opened up to him about her life and the terrible state in which she currently found herself. The man listened very intently to what she was saying and offered no judgement, only a sympathetic ear.

After the mealtime was over, the woman made her way to the door and thanked the man for listening.  The man smiled and invited her to come back whenever she was in need.  So, for the next three days, the woman came back to the shelter, enjoyed a hot meal and a nice conversation with the man.

On the evening of that fourth day, the man discovered that his wallet was missing.  He tried to retrace his steps from the day, but could not recall where he had last seen it.  He reported the loss to the supervisor of the shelter, and all but gave up on the idea that he would ever see it recovered.

The next morning, the supervisor called the man into his office.  When the man entered, he saw, sitting in one of the two chairs beside the supervisor’s desk, the woman whom he had befriended at the beginning of the week.

“Well, hello,” said the man.  “What brings you in here and at this time of day.”

The supervisor sat behind his desk and let the woman speak up for herself.

“I’m here because I felt terrible, ” she confessed.

“Whatever for?” asked the man, sitting down next to her in the other chair.

“I stole your wallet yesterday afternoon while we were sitting together at lunch.  You laid it down on the table, and while we were talking, I took it and put it in my coat.  You never even noticed.”

“Ok,” said the man, surprised at the honest confession.  “So, what brought you back?”

“After I had gotten away clean, I started to think about how easy it had been to lift the wallet from you.  I realized that the reason it was so simple was that you didn’t notice because you were listening to me so intently.  I had never had anyone so interested in what I had to say before.  I knew then that I could never live with myself if I kept it, so I brought it back to your supervisor.  I’m very sorry.”

The supervisor looked at the woman and then said to the man, “I’m not surprised at all, you know.  I knew this would happen to you.  You never pay close enough attention to what the guests are doing.  You’re too wrapped up in what they’re saying to guard against theft.  What am I going to do with you?”

“You’re right,” said the man.  “I’m surprised it’s taken this long.”  Then, looking forgivingly at the woman, he said, “Thank you for returning my wallet to me, and I accept your apology.  I hope you will stay and enjoy another meal with us today.”

“I’d love to stay, but please don’t fire this man,” pleaded the woman to the supervisor.  “Who would  ever listen to me like he does?”

“Fire him?” asked the supervisor, surprised by the very notion.  “I wish I had 50 more employees like him!  People try to steal things from our staff all the time, but never once has anyone gotten away with it and come back to return what they’ve taken.  Besides, if I fire him, who would ever listen to me like he does?”