In journalism school, we learned how to ask questions that opened up conversations instead of shutting them down. We were trained to avoid leading questions and to enter conversations with open minds. You never want to assume you know what people want to share with you. Asking only open-ended questions allows the speaker to direct the conversation and keeps you out of the way.
More than 20 years later, I am still asking people open-ended questions. This practice has become a key component of my faith as well.
On my best days, I approach every human interaction with a sense of openness. This often results in joy. This always results in gratitude.
During my daily prayers, I ask God to help me keep an open heart, open mind, open eyes, and open hands. I find that this posture results in surprising gifts every day of my life.
On the silly end, at Target recently a cashier shared with me about her family’s practice to bless sneezes with the word “Scat!” While she continued to ring up my purchase, she shared detailed and hilarious family folklore.
At pickle ball recently, one of our players mentioned having two dogs. I asked about his dogs and learned the story of his late wife and her health struggles in her last days. He cherishes his time with his dogs as a living link with his deceased wife.
At a senior health fair, I listened to a woman who initially wanted to dismiss me with a quick note that she knew all about our church. My openness and questions didn’t let her disengage quickly, though. She opened up and shared a deeply personal story about church hurt and grief. I offered her a hug at the end and she left the conversation looking lighter somehow.
As we are waking up and imagining a world post-pandemic, I am experiencing interactions like this daily. Opening my eyes and ears results in blessings every single time.
Sometimes it’s hard and we feel overwhelmed with our own agendas. However, every time we pray and ask Christ for a sense of openness, God answers our prayer.
We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I invite you to join me in working to open ourselves to receiving what God and God’s people want to share.