Miss A Walk-up … September 9, 2012


I always try to make friends with the maintenance people at the motels where I stay. I find them to be nice folk, and honestly, it’s always good to be friends with someone who’s “nuts about bolts.” So when I was leaving my lodging in Detroit, the fellow in charge of taking care of the property ran up to me and said good-bye and asked me where I was heading.

“Mishawaka,” I responded.

His brow furrowed as he squinted, questioning, “Miss a walk-up?”

I chuckled. Apparently combining his lack of geographical knowledge of Indiana with my lazy morning tongue, I had failed to communicate the name. “Mishawaka,” I enunciated, sounding out each syllable.

He paused. I think he was trying to gauge exactly what the word was and also whether I was having one of those “senior brain clogs,” where yesterday was merging with today to form a mental mush. Suddenly he launched into conversation. He talked about how when he was a kid, his father called certain apartments “walk-ups.” He explained that he was certain that his father also missed those old walk-ups and pined for the days when things were simpler and more concise.

I realized that my maintenance buddy was convinced that he had understood me, and that I was a little bit wacky, and I knew that I was going to Mishawaka, and he had misunderstood.

He kept talking. Pretty soon he was discussing how the problems in our country seemed insurmountable because we had lost our values. I had a choice. I could stop him and explain that Mishawaka was a little city in the Hoosier state, and probably embarrass him, making him feel ridiculous, or I could give up on the notion of reality and simply leap into the stream of thought and try to swim my way to shore.

You see what I mean? The reason most of us never get along with other people is that we have so much agenda crammed into our confines that there is no room whatsoever for our friends and new acquaintances to squeeze in a notion. So I decided to forget about Indiana and Mishawaka and simply participate in the present flow of conversation. We talked about walk-ups. We talked about missing things. We talked about life.

It lasted probably no more than seven or eight minutes, but by the time we finished, he was convinced that he had used his young, fertile mind to communicate with an aging gent who had temporarily gone into a nostalgic burst of reminiscing. And I was aware that we had fortunately escaped a moment of embarrassment which would have stuck with him for some time.

Somewhere along the line, we have to stop being defensive, or we’re destined to be offensive. I wish I could spend fifteen minutes with every minister and politician and communicate that principle into their sermons and stump speeches. When I am dealing with human beings, I honor a five-step process when yakking with folks:

1. Don’t argue. Just follow through with what’s on their minds. Don’t try to change the subject to your particular liking or evangelize them to your cause. Get where you want to go by letting them do the driving.

2. Find reasons for agreement and pose ONE question. You’d be surprised at how many things we all share in common. If you have a mind to plant a new seed inside people, just save it for later on in your interchange with them, and pose that one question that will get them to think.

3. Listen for people’s hearts instead of focusing on their ideas. America is overloaded with politics, religion and gossip. The poor, hapless masses are at the mercy of a sea of doctrines and statistics. Please forgive them if they end up piping some of those back to you because they just heard them on TV and want to show off. It doesn’t mean it’s their heart–it’s just topical.

4. Believe in something. I have trouble with conservatives AND liberals. Conservatives can tell you what they’ve been taught and liberals are willing to abandon their ideals so as to maintain some sense of being intellectual or contemporary. Believe in something–not a whole bunch of stuff–but find a few things that have proven to be true in your life, and have a story about them.

5. Always leave every conversation loving. Leave loving. Now, there’s a bumper sticker. We have some folks that show up loving and leave fussy. I would much rather show up fussy and leave loving.

My dear repairer of motels in Detroit never did understand that I was heading for Mishawaka, Indiana. Who cares? It wasn’t worth humiliating him to make the point that he was wrong. Until we reach the conclusion that fellowship is more valuable than always being right, we are a missile unguided, shot off into the air to land somewhere on an innocent bystander. So in closing:

May opinions be damned

Yes, a curse on my will

Settle the angry sea

Proclaiming, “Peace, be still.”

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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