I was recently introduced to Carol through a mutual friend. I could immediately tell she was a person I’d really enjoy. I even got the sense I could learn a lot from her. She just had a way about her. Our friend did the normal introduction, saying something kind about both of us, and we followed the usual course of conversation. She said, “Hi Chance. So nice to meet you.” I replied, “Hi Carol. Great to meet you too! So… what do you do?”
And that was the fatal blow.
There were endless possibilities to the questions I could have asked in that moment, but without even thinking, as if following some predetermined script I asked, “What do you do?”
“Well, officially… nothing.”, she replied. I re-approached with an equally limiting question, and got a similar answer. Thankfully, our friend jumped in and bridged the gap, but the damage had been done. I left our conversation with a strange feeling I’d just met one of the smartest, kindest, most ‘special’ people I might ever know… but I’d wasted it.
My question didn’t allow Carol to show herself. It didn’t allow me to discover ‘her’. It seemed to just ask, “What is your job?’’ But is that the information I really wanted? No. I only care about her job if it’s somehow tied to her greatest reasons for getting up each day. What I really wanted to know was what about her is important to her.
Let’s learn this lesson once and for all.
We are not what we do! Where we work and how we make a living is just a sliver of who we are, and so often, it’s one of the least interesting parts of our experience. Even as I consider the people I know who have the coolest, most fulfilling jobs, I’d still venture to say that who they are is far more interesting than what they do.
It’s so easy to miss truly meeting one another when we’re introduced. Have you ever been overlooked by someone who didn’t make the time or effort to scratch beyond the surface? Heck yes, you have. And how often have you been guilty of the same mistake? What and who have you missed inviting into your life simply because you didn’t ask the right question?
Since our meeting, I’ve come to know that Carol is at the center of her community. She’s a leader and a gatherer. She loves well and pours herself out for others. At her core, she’s a helper, an advocate for others. In big and small ways, those who live life with her are made better by her input and friendship. Her influence has even changed some of their lives in profound ways.
Had I asked a better question that day, maybe I would have made a great new friend. So I’m losing the question, “What do you do?” I’m finding a better way to say, “Tell me something about you. What’s your passion? What’s in your heart?”
We are not what we do.
We’re not what we have, or where we live.
We aren’t who we know,
Or who knows us.
We are the thing at our core that we alone can name.
The reason our heart beats,
And beats again.
Hi, I’m Chance… What do you love?