Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Spiritual lessons learnt at the supermarket #1: cards

I can't remember if I wrote on this blog that I am working in the supermarket again. Well, I am. And in general I quite enjoy it.

Here's one lesson I've learnt from working there.

A woman came up to me, saying that she had accidentally left a card at the checkout, and asking whether it was still there. I spent a some seconds looking for it, assuming I was looking for a credit card. I looked on the floor, and in all the nooks and crannies, and all around until I saw a greeting card sitting right in front of me, 'You don't mean this do you?' She did. It was what she was looking for.

In fact she had said 'Greeting card' but she had quite a strong Indian accent, so I didn't hear the word 'greeting.' I thought I was looking for a credit card. I had seen the greetings card as soon as I came onto that till. It was right in front of me, I just didn't think that was what she was looking for.

It made me think about how easy it is to misunderstand each other. If I can misunderstand someone when talking about a greeting card, how much more can I misunderstand someone when talking about 'God.' How much can differences in language, culture, and history lead us to misunderstand each other when we speak about the deepest mysteries of existence.

What I am learning slowly and painfully, is that I need to ask more questions. I need to be sure what questions someone is asking before I rush to answer. 'What do you mean by that?' is an important question.

A newcomer at church on Sunday asked something like, 'Tell me about this church.' What is an appropriate answer to such a question? Was she asking about history? The building? Unitarianism? What? I can't really remember what I said, I don't know if she was satisfied by my answer. Probably not.

Language is an imperfect vehicle for speaking religiously, we need to be cautious and humble in our conversations, and do the hard work of understanding what others are saying.

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