Pretend we meet on the street.
I reach out and say, “Hi, I’m John.”
You shake my hand and reply, “Hello, I am state-your-name. How are you today?”
“I’m fine,” I reply, subtly pausing before diving into all the gory details in the honest truth about how my day is really going. Chance are, you’d nod politely, pretend to listen, all the while darting your eyes about, searching for an escape.
This is why the world needs small talk.
I have always been horrible at meeting new people as making small talk is no small task for me. And small talk seems an unfortunate prerequisite for big talk—the kind of conversation that matters and actually lends to developing a relationship with somebody.
Since I am not very good at it, my nerves often turn to humor, and this is what happened many, many years ago when I first met a guy named Miro. I’ve mentioned him here before, just never by name. (He’s the agnostic-y friend who jokes about God being a giant flying spaghetti monster.) I made some smart aleck comment when we met. I can’t remember what it was, and I don’t remember his comeback…but it was sharp, well-timed, and it shut me up. I had no comeback to his comeback, and so I did the only thing I could think of.
I spit my gum out at him.
Why? I don’t know. Definitely not one of my prouder moments. I would never do that again, to anyone, but the fact that Miro simply laughed at the absurdity of it hinted that we’d become great friends.
And even though we did become great friends, we grew up and we grew apart.
He moved to the city, and I moved to the suburbs to start a family. Still, we made an effort to get together every year or so for dinner…and it was always like time had never passed between us. The conversation simply picked up wherever we had left it the year before.
I have a decent number of friends in my life, but too few friends like Miro…touchstones that keep me grounded and my heart young.
It’s just very difficult to make those types of connections. One of the things Pastor Dave says is that human beings are wired to be connected with other people. We are social animals.
And I realize that that is the common denominator for much of what I do lately. Whether it is writing these articles, working on a book or a script, posting my warped brand of humor on Facebook, or attending church and its lifegroups, it is all driven by a basic need to connect. All these things I do are little more than me reaching out to others in a search to find those connections with people and the world around me.
I even attended a new/second lifegroup at Lifeline Church and met with new folks I likely wouldn’t have had a chance to get to know otherwise. This is not something that comes easy for me, mind you. Small talk issues aside, I home body. The worst part of my day is any part that requires me to put pants on. (And a church lifegroup without pants is likely a lifegroup of a different sort, but I digress.)
But that’s kind of the cool thing about these lifegroup meetings. Even when the talk is smallish there’s nothing small about the conversation. They offer a great opportunity to connect with someone.
But, you know what? A lifegroup doesn’t have to be about church…it can be a book club, a bowling league, a study group, or folks you meet with for a round of drinks at the end of the work week. You share your stories and struggles around something you have in common, however thin that common thread.
If you’ve got a touchstone or two in your life, that’s awesome. Phone him or her and re-connect. Meet for dinner and drinks if you can. Be there for one another.
If you have a lifegroup of any sort that hasn’t met in a while, find an excuse to celebrate. My wife and her ex-classmates will celebrate “It’s Saturday!”—a thinly-veiled excuse to enjoy each other’s company.
Even if you have either of these to connect with, I’d still like to shake your hand and ask "How are you today?"
You just can't ever have enough friends in this life.