Many of us spent hours last week sitting in airports or in cars getting to and from places to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family. It takes me 18 hours to get from Africa to the U.S., much longer than most Thanksgiving trips.
This gave me time to think about the blessing of travel. At home in Uganda, I love travelling with my family, especially when we do not have to deal with "Mummy, are we nearly there?"
We eat cookies, play music, and sing together. We play "I Spy" and we talk about places and imagine the lives of people we drive past. Never mind that we often argue over the music that's playing, or complain that Daddy sometimes drives too fast.
I recently realized there is something about being crammed in a car together for a long period of time or sharing space on an aircraft that is a lot like life. It can be a joyful time or a dreadfully unpleasant one depending on whom we travel with. Miles fly past when we are busy, especially when we are enjoying a good conversation.
Life is a journey and relationships provide companions on that journey. Travelling together and sharing life's journey can make life more enjoyable and even more bearable.
Shortened Greetings & Missed Connections
Over the years connecting with people has become complicated in spite of the ease in communication that technology brings. Email, Facebook, and all those tools allow us to stay in touch without really knowing what is going on in each other's lives—after all, a quick line will do. We "see" each other online and seem to stay in touch, but do not necessarily "talk."
In time, greetings have shortened. "How are you?" has been replaced with a simple "hi." This seems sufficient as a way of greeting, but does not do much for connection.
Where I come from, some tribal greetings consist of asking about everybody in the family including the family's cows and the goats. The idea is to start the conversation by getting people to talk about everything that concerns them.
Another tribe does not greet immediately, but prefers to wait until the guests have settled down and are able to really talk about themselves. We have no time for that today.
An old friend wrote a song called, "Brother I Need You," and the lyrics go something like this:
"When you meet me and greet me I say I am fine, but if you try and ask again I say headache, backache, and all . . ."
Many times, however, we stop at the greeting, and fail to go on to a conversation that digs deeper and really tells us the truth about the people we are relating to. We can only make a connection that builds relationship when we go beyond the "hi."
The Relief of Conversation
For most women, when something good or bad happens, we often feel as though we have to talk to someone about it, and we feel so much better after we have shared a burden or a joy. Conversation deepens relationship, and that is the essence of travelling together along life's journey.
Conversation provides relief in life's troubled times. How many times have you felt after listening to someone's story that you so understand them? That maybe their story was your story? Or maybe after sharing something with a friend, you felt your burden was much lighter because you sensed an understanding of your situation? Sometimes the person we talked to cannot do anything about our situation, but still it feels good to have talked about it.
Conversation provides us with a sense of companionship, a feeling that we are not alone in this, that someone has listened to us, and felt our joy or pain. Perhaps we encounter someone who has gone through what we are going through, and we know we can be understood—we may even learn something from them to guide us on our way.
Let us give ourselves times to go beyond "hi" and really have a conversation. I am amazed at how much comes out when I go beyond "hi," and how effective I can be in showing others the love of Christ when I intentionally focus on really getting to know the other—by really caring. Yes, I am afraid it takes time—we cannot truly listen in a hurry. Let us schedule times in which we can really connect with our friends and those around us to experience the journey of life together.
It's more comfortable to just say "hi." How often do you reach outside of your comfort zone? Do you have any examples of when others have reached out to you?
Aryantu Otiti is a Ugandan writer and editor, spending time at Today's Christian Woman to learn more about Christian media and publications. Follow her on Twitter @ARYOT.