Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Ask the Right Question

The reason I'm not launching into witty observations about the recently concluded Olympic Games is both stupid and a little sad. Our efforts over many months to get the digital, non-cable signal of the local NBC affiliate, located right here in town, failed. I didn't see a thing. That being said, I still offer congrats to the USOC for helping pull in all those medals and to Canada, for proving that it is STILL the King (and Queen) of hockey. Condolences to Georgia for losing a luge-er even before the Games began. If you're still confused on the difference between Nordic combined and biathlon, you can revisit the question in another four years, when it won't matter too much again.

Sometimes at church, perhaps ten times a year, I find myself assigned to give a "lesson" to a small group of distinguished older men. How old? Anywhere from their early sixties to late eighties.
I admit it can be a challenge. There is literally nothing I can say to this group that they haven't heard many times before, and their presence in the class proves that they already believe my thesis, more or less.
Where does that leave me? I find myself concentrating not so much on the doctrines being discussed, as the questions I can ask about them. Ask the right question and you've got an instant discussion. Ask the wrong one and you've got silence, which lets you know the question was wrong and allows you to rephrase or just move on to something else. In any case, the goal is to have someone's comments connect in a new way to someone else. It doesn't have to be my words at all. I just get the ball rolling.
So it was my job to review a message with a very simple thesis on two principles that we should pursue no matter WHAT economic circumstances we find ourselves in. The two principles - "work" and "learn". And the question that turned out to be the one that broke the dam of silence - "What are some jobs you have done in order to meet your family's
Boy, did I get some answers! A former teenage husband talked about working as a pinsetter at a bowling alley. Our senior guy, now pushing 90 years old, worked the weekend shift at his grandfather's Chinese restaurant in Portland - 2PM to 6 AM for a buck and a half! Various kinds of brutal-sounding work in the agricultural sector were mentioned, and I'm still trying to see the profit of spending all day with a team of horses plowing a neighbor's garden - for $1.
I could tell pretty quickly that there was nothing I could tell these old guys about working for a good cause - yourself and family, and so I didn't even try. It's easy to forget that the world is still full of people who have to do some pretty tough things to make ends meet. As for learning, it works the same. Just ask the right questions, have a little patience in actually listening for the answers that come back and you'll learn more, much more, than you thought you would.


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