Tuesday, February 13, 2007

This Girl Sure Knows What to Talk About at Parties

Here is a rough transcription of a conversation (complete with my accompanying thoughts, in brackets) that took place at Holly-and-Matt's last Friday night.

This Kid Tim: Hi, Jenn? I'm Tim. Nice to meet you. What do you do?

Me: I work at Starbucks, actually.

TKT: Oh, really? I heard that's a great company to work for. So, are you a student, too, or something?

Me: [No one can believe that a) I am in my mid-thirties--which is probably why this 23-year-old is talking to me, or b) that I would actually make Starbucks my life's work, as it were.]

We make a little more small-talk about how great a company he's heard Starbucks is and how I'm not a student, and somehow, though I can't quite remember how, it comes out that I once lived in London, and then came back, ostensibly to get a Master's degree in counseling, which I started, and then quit.

TKT: Why?

Me: [This is going to be tricky to explain without bringing in all the "I think God . . ." reasons, which are hard enough to explain to people who think more or less the way I do.] I just felt like it wasn't for me. I mean, the people I actually wanted to help are people who wouldn't be able to afford counseling anyway. And besides, I realised that what I like most, and am better at, is just being friends with people--you know, hanging out and talking with them over coffee and stuff. So I got a job where I can hang out and talk to people over coffee all day.

TKT (for whom this concept is clearly computing even less well than it does for most people): So . . . what do you talk about, then?

Me: Um . . .

There is a long pause while I try to figure out how overt I can or want to be about this. Then I bite the bullet.

Me: Okay, so actually, when I lived in London, I was a missionary, and I realised that I really just like talking to people about God and faith and stuff, and so . . . that's the kind of stuff I talk to them about here, too.

TKT (after a split second of a pick-and-mix of facial expressions): So, you just hand them their coffee and say, "Hey, do you want to talk about religion?"

Me (laughing): No! I talk about that stuff more to the people I work with, really, when they bring it up.

TKT: They just bring it up?

Me: Yeah.

TKT: You just have random conversations about religion.

Me: Yeah.

TKT: How does that happen?

Me: [Kind of like this, actually.]

He then proceeded to ask me about faith "versus" science, and Christianity "versus" other religions, and Jesus, and whether you can know if you're "right" or not. This all took place before dinner. Well, before our dinner. Everybody else was milling and eating and trying to ignore and not interrupt our clearly not-polite-conversation in the corner by the time This Kid Tim took a breath and turned around to notice. He took this moment of observation to extract himself from the conversation I had been trying to avoid and which he himself had embroiled himself in.

The weirdest thing about this is that I have this kind of conversation a lot. I almost never look for them. I just sort of collide with them by accident. But do I ever love it.


Scott said...

Cool, Jenn. That is exacly what Jesus did at HIs parties. I am sure that He would have worked at Starbucks mixing the latte and espressos. He had a way of taking the ordiinariness of this life and placing the divine within it. Way to go!!!!!
Imagine a coffee or tea that would always satisfy mixed with the Holy water!!!!

L.L. Barkat said...

yes, some of us have this genetic predisposition... (are you my cousin?)

locutus est said...

The trouble with college students is that they're just babies but in a grown-up world. So they think they know more about real life than they possibly could.

Heather said...

This transcription made me laugh! Keep going with all those conversations!

David A. Zimmerman said...

Poor Tim. All he wanted to do is mack on somebody at a party, and he winds up confronting his inner anxieties about his life's ultimate meaning. I'm curious, Jenn, how you resonate with the concept of chaplaincy as you approach your work. I read an article once about the decline of faith in Great Britain, and the journalist interviewed the chaplain of a department store, without even commenting on how odd it would be to encounter a department store chaplain. It made me want to change jobs, actually: a way for the faith to continue to pervade culture even in the context of a culture that has foresworn faith.

What's that quote? "Bidden or unbidden, God is present."

Stacey said...

Wow, what a great thing! Praise God for those of you with this gift for "letting the conversations happen." May you be blessed with clear moments of seeing the fruits of your labor.

GreekGeek said...

hee hee -- I found, ever since I started at seminary, that I've had _far_ more "God" conversations. Something in me just became far less bashful to questions, I suppose. I probably have far fewer conversations than you, but I often find conversations going in directions I'm not aiming for (and am often slightly overwhelmed at the prospect!), but I enjoy all the same. Kudos to you for being willing!

Jenn said...

Scott--hey, that's an interesting thought. I never really considered that I might brew coffee with the Living Water. (Is it sacrilegious to think like this, or just really really amazing?)

LL--um, I'm pretty sure we're related somehow . . .

Paul--I guess. Or maybe we all think that. Maybe I know more about life than Tim. Or maybe I just know different things. Anyway, I didn't feel like that when I was talking to him; I just felt like I should talk about what he wanted to talk about.

Heather--thanks. Especially for laughing. It made me laugh, too!

Dave--cool quote. Yeah, I resonate with the chaplaincy idea. Sometimes I think of myself as a mildly undercover Sbux chaplain. Sometimes I think about making chaplaincy official, but mostly I'm just doing it anyway, I guess.

Stacey--yeah. Seeing some of the fruit would be nice. Thanks for the encouragement and the blessing.

Jenn said...

Oh, whoops--HEY Mariam! (Sorry about that!) Yeah, I was thinking at first of beginning this post with something like,

"Sometimes I wonder if the whole point of my being a missionary in London was not so I could introduce people to Jesus over there, but so I would have something that would get people talking to me about Him over here."

I would think the seminary thing would open up similar kinds of opportunities, often with people who are simultaneously appalled and fascinated that anyone would consider dedicating her life to something like what either of us is doing.

Annelise said...

Wow, this post certainly generated feedback. I think you've finally found some people who actually "get" what you're trying to do! I enjoyed the comments as much as the post!

Jenn said...

Mom--me, too! ;)

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