Two years ago, I wrote a post called “Salaam and a cookie” about an encounter that I had in a Subway restaurant. I try to strike up a conversation with people wherever I go – often to the embarrassment of my family :). Here’s the post:
Saturday evening, Margaret and I were returning home from an afternoon shopping trip. We had planned to buy something for dinner at the grocery store, but we realized that we forgot to do that. So, we decided to stop by a local Subway shop for $5 subs.
The man behind the counter took our order and fixed our sandwiches quickly. As we were checking out, I noticed his accent. I LOVE accents, and I love learning about people. So, I said to the man, “I don’t mean to be rude, but can I ask where you’re from?”
Apparently, he didn’t think I was being rude at all. He smiled and said, “Lebanon”.
I smiled back and said, “Salaam”, which is a generic Arabic greeting, like “hello” or “greetings”.
He smiled even bigger and we talked for few minutes about Lebanon and other Lebanese people in the area. I’ve met a few from local restaurants.
As we were about to leave, he stopped us and gave us three cookies.
It is amazing how much people will talk about themselves if you are interested and take the time to listen. I often talk to people – especially people with accents. I love languages, but I also love to hear people talk about themselves and their home countries. I’ve also found that people like to talk about themselves.
I’ve learned how to say “hello” in many different languages just by asking people where they were from. Of course, this means that I have to stop thinking about myself, and think about other people – which is hard to do. I’ve been taught (along with most people in the US) to consider myself and my own interests first. I’ve been taught to use other people to get the things that I want or that I need.
But, somehow, God has changed me. I no longer think about myself (well, not all the time). I often find myself wondering about the person behind the counter, or in line next to me, or taking my order, or next door. And, when I find myself wondering, I try to stop and ask them about themselves.
People’s demeanor (often) changes completely when you ask them about themselves. They become much more open to sharing and listening… especially when I listen first. But, this is something that is not natural for me. It is something that I’m learning, I think, through the work of the Spirit in my life.
I enjoyed sharing a cookie with Margaret on the way home. I enjoyed seeing the kids’ excitement when we gave them their cookies. But, more than that, I enjoyed learning more about the man behind the counter at Subway, and learning more about Lebanon and the Arabic language. I’m going to look for him the next time I stop at Subway.