Recently, I was waiting to meet a friend at a casual dining restaurant. Seated a table or so away from me were four women engaged in in a very lively conversation—about makeup. I couldn’t help but overhear them talk about the makeup they wore, the kind their mother wore, and so on. (As a guy, the details are lost on me.)
I thought nothing of it at first as I typed away on my laptop, getting a few things done while waiting for my friend. After a half hour or so, I noticed that they were still on the same topic. Apparently there must be a lot of ground to cover in this area that I’m unaware of.
Now, I’m not one to listen in on other’s conversations, but I found myself tempted to go over and ask if anyone at that table might be longing to tell their friends about something other than the makeup they are wearing. Of course, I didn’t. Who am I to judge what others might find refreshing? After all, maybe these women are so finely tuned with each other’s lives that they’re having a little sugar break from deeper conversations they’ve had.
It did make me reflect on my own conversations with others, however. Ever since I’ve read Thomas Merton’s two questions to inspire others, I’ve tried to intentionally ask them of those I meet with—even for the first time. I don’t always do it well nor do I do it every time, but when I ask, it always seems to take our conversation to a more authentic level.
As I sat there, paused over my keyboard, I realized that my Merton intention had lapsed. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been so preoccupied with my own preferences that conversations with others were less inspiring than I would like them to be. Like the ladies at the nearby table, I, too, was hosting a makeup conversation.
Suddenly, my temptation to goad these fine ladies vanquished. Instead, God used their conversation to poke fun at me. Here I thought it silly to spend so much time talking about something that covers up the real you, when I’ve lathered myself with the makeup of action, tasks, and the so less inspiring question, “How can you help me?”
What questions do you like to ask to go a little deeper with others?