TC's guidelines and principles for life #20: "Arguing never creates unity; but dialogue can." A couple nights ago, I took my two daughters camping. When we arrived at Assateague Island to camp on the beach with the wild ponies, we were greeted by gale force winds and buckets of rain coming down. The wind whipped pieces of sand that felt like we were being shot with tiny bbs all over.
We moved to another campsite with a bit more protection from the wind (that is, it had a few small brushes taking the edge off) and there was a bit of grass to keep the sand from blowing free at our tender flesh.
My oldest daughter wrapped herself in a blanket to gain some protection from the environment, then threw up as she come off the adrenaline rush of our initial setup attempt and were making a second go of it.
Wanting to give my daughters 'an adventure', I insisted we stick it out. I spent the next hour getting our tent set up. If the boy scouts have a merit badge for setting up a tent in adverse conditions, I demand that they send me one. I earned it.
After going to bed, the wind and rain picked up even more. Around 12:30, I woke up as a pole in the tent was intermittently striking me in the face because the tent was so waterlogged, it was losing its form. There was also a puddle growing in the other room of the tent because a small lake was forming under that part of our tent.
After 15 minutes, I made the call to pack in the camping trip and head home. We waiting for a break in the deluge, and I took my girls back to our truck, then returned to our pitch black campsite with a flashlight to pack up the tent.
On the drive home, I stopped at a gas station at 2am in order to get fill the tank, and decided to take my kids in to get some snacks to make up for our misfortune.
The attendant was a nice guy who had sleeve tats going down both arms.
As we were leaving, I told my oldest daughter that he probably thought I was a terrible Dad for taking my kids to a gas station at 2am in the morning on a weekday.
She looked at me and said 'Yeah, but he doesn't know what we just went through'.
I smiled widely at her and told her that she was absolutely right, and that we should keep this in mind next time we see somebody doing something that seems crazy or foolish.
Communication is so important.
We hear that a lot.
A good marriage requires communication.
Businesses engage in marketing so that they can effectively communicate with their customers and potential customers.
Teams must communicate effectively with one another.
Militaries need lines of communication even in battle.
One of the great values of communication is this: when we don't know the real story, we start to make up our own.
If the man at the gas station knew our story, he would probably have compassion rather than possibly thinking I'm a very irresponsible parent (though my wife says that the camping trip may go to prove that point, but I digress).
If we get to a place where we are telling people what they should think or say or do (arguing), chances are that we're not going to have much impact on them. But if we listen to their story, asking questions, and have dialogue, we may be able to inspire, encourage, and perhaps lend a hand in areas where it would be welcome.
Arguing, in my opinion, is a fairly selfish thing to do. It's all about us getting a chance to tell others how we feel.
Listening, creating dialogue is generous. It takes time, effort and vulnerability on our part. In our modern digital age, we have to be intentional about it, because we all know how fast Facebook comments can become argumentative.
One of the values we hold to at the church where I have the privilege of serving is that everyone should share their story.
Maybe the best thing we can do when we discover a place of disagreement with somebody is to say "Tell me your story."
Because only when we know another person's story will we be able to value them as a person and not just as an opposing opinion that must be defeated.
35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.