Hey, how are you?

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

Times Like These- Foo Fighters

Working in the service industry has been a pretty monumental thing in my life. Now, you might be thinking ‘did he just use monumental in the opening sentence?’ or maybe ‘slow down Gil, being a bartender couldn’t have been that huge.’ But really I am not kidding. I just started work this month at a coffee shop in Calgary and it has me reminiscing on the days when I first had begun serving at Boston Pizza. I remember one of the main anxieties I had was that I didn’t know how to keep a conversation going. I always felt so awkward and I hated the silence that followed most my conversations. Now yes, this was an anxiety. But it was also something that quite frankly pissed me off about myself and I was so ready for an opportunity to grow in this area. To me being a waiter was the perfect storm to break down those walls. Today I look at myself as someone who is actually quite good at keeping a conversation and generally someone people go away from maybe feeling a little bit better. Working in a service industry job is so interesting because on the outside it looks like its all just small talk. In some ways it kind of is, but conversation always starts somewhere and to be quite frank I think that small talk isn’t as pointless as some people tend to think, but I will get back to that.

The main theme so far of this post is conversation. I think we can all agree that communication is a pillar to healthy relationship, and i think conversation could possibly be 50% of communication. So conversation is definitely important. If you know me well you would say that I am a person who loves meaningful conversation… okay maybe you would say that I am stubborn, opinionated, and won’t shut up, but I like to think it’s a deep desire to talk about meaningful things. I have never been the guy who wanted to talk about yet another drunk weekend, not because I am above temptation or some perfect person, just because even if I was indulging in that I didn’t see meaning in talking about it, wasting breath. Anyway back to meaningful things. See, many of my peers have voiced a certain concern to me, and it is that they hate the whole “hey how are you?” “good how are you?” conversation. Now, on the surface, as a lover of all things meaningful I tend to agree. But here is my question, why aren’t those conversations meaningful? 

I was driving a few weeks back and was suddenly hit by an interesting perspective shift. I was having a pretty rough day, and I was frustrated by it. I called one of my dearest friends basically to rant and let some steam off so I could feel a little better. around the same time a friend I haven’t talked to in maybe three months texted me asking the dreaded question “Hey! How are you?” Now guess how I responded? As I sat stuck in traffic fuming, I replied “I am doing so so so great!”… ‘Wait a second Gil, but isn’t that lying? I thought you wanted to be meaningful?’ Just wait, gimme a chance to explain myself. When she asked how I was doing, and I hadn’t talked to her in months my mind immediately went to the big picture, how is life going in general. But if my close friend would have asked I would have said something along the lines of “terrible”. I don’t think either is a wrong answer, I think it shows how perspective can change how we see our current condition. It might have been small talk but the feeling behind it was meaningful.

Even on top of all this. I don’t think everyone needs to know when we have our down days. Sure if you have the worst day of your life don’t hide it. But I honestly don’t see the point of telling an acquaintance, who asks how you are just to be polite, that you are having a bad day. I mean they aren’t a person who can even help. It will make you dwell, and them feel bad. But that’s a rant for another day. Basically what I want to say is that I do not think the “hi, how are you?’ conversation is far from meaningful, maybe its not the most meaningful, but there is a place for it. As I said I have started a new job recently, I work every morning Monday-Friday. Just like any coffee shop we have regular customers. For the most part the conversations I have with them is what people would call small talk, sometimes it’s more, but usually it’s just plain old small talk. This last week one of our regular customers passed away, which came as quite a surprise. Why do I bring this up? Because I am sad, my heart aches when I think of it. But this was only someone who I shared small talk with, if small talk is so impersonal how am I so deeply effected? We are made to love.

Here is the bottom line. As Christians our job is to serve, and love. Our approach should never be “am I getting something out of this?’ but should rather be “am I giving them all that they need?” I honestly don’t care if small talk isn’t your thing, that person might be gone tomorrow and you might wish you could ask for the 100th time “Hey, how are you?”

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