This may surprise you but I am not very good at small talk. I often feel awkward at social events where I feel an obligation to speak to others but feel as though I have nothing to say. It is ironic, isn’t it? I am in a position where I am consistently put in situations where I am trying to build relationships with strangers. To combat this, I have a list of questions that I have collected over the years to ask people to get the conversation moving. Some of these questions work better than others. For instance,
instead of asking someone “what do you do?” I find it better to ask someone, “How did you spend your time this past month?”
For example, if you asked me what I do, I could tell you that I am the Area Director for Youth Unlimited in Langley. But if you asked me how I spent my time this past month, and if you had the time to listen, this is what I could tell you:
I sat with a young person as she shared her story of heartache, abuse, neglect and abandonment. When I asked why she trusted me with this, she responded, “You see me as a person, not a list of problems.” I drove a group of RCMP officers and underprivileged youth to a Vancouver Whitecaps game. I love creating positive experiences between police and youth. I also established a new after-school Lego club at a middle school. This is the fruit of a lot of behind the scenes meetings with the school. I was away at Barnabas camp while attending the Arrow leadership program. It felt like a slice out of heaven and was restorative to my soul. I’ve spent a lot of time interviewing and training staff. With all involved, I oversee a crew of 16. This growth is direct response to prayer.
I listened to a teen tell me: “After withdrawing myself so much from everything and everyone, I found myself lost in the darkness, lost in my mind and lost in self harm. I found myself sitting on the floor crying and begging for something that I thought I didn’t need any more. But I did. And I found [Jesus].” Then at the new Langley Youth Hub, I lead an art project as youth shared their stories of homelessness and rejection. Hard but important stories to listen to. On a positive front, at the art show we hosted two youth shared some affirming stories. Brittney said, “Over the past four years I have seen this club grow into much more than a creative space, but into an area full of love, understanding, compassion and diversity…a family away from home.” Josie reiterated, “[This] is a place to come to have some fun, connect with the community, but more importantly, learn how to be a good person and to learn how to connect with people who are hurting. You get to see that through the youth workers and [through] Christ.” At one point I wasn’t sure that this young lady who shared would make it to see graduation, but she did. Not only that, she is joining our team as an intern this summer and heading to college to become a youth worker herself.
I hope the stories from my month encourage you and that my small talk technique inspires you to listen to someone in your life in a new way. Thank you for all your support, prayer and presence in my life.
- Danny Ferguson