A few weeks ago my wife, Rachel, and I were in Nashville with some friends for the National Youth Workers Convention. 12,000+ Youth Pastors in one room is always a good time. Anyway, I woke up early the first morning of the conference excited about the days activities and was equally excited that the hotel we were staying in was equipped with a Starbucks in the lobby! Bonus! As the elevator doors opened I was confronted by a runaway coffee line that was at least 25 deep. (This is the actual Picture of the line, you can’t even see the register yet.) Naturally, I was a little frustrated, but, of course, I got in line. What? Don’t give me that look! I can quit at anytime? After a few minutes I started making chatter with the Youth Pastor in front of me about the seminars that were on the docket for the day. Then we started talking about where, in the country, each of us were doing ministry, how many of these conferences we had each been to and about the time of sabbath, rest and rejuvenation that this conference provides for busy ministry folks.
Before I had realized it my new friend was ordering his drink, “A Dopio Espresso, please”, which made me smile even more! A purist! Then it was my turn, “A Venti Black Eye, please”! As we exchanged casual goodbyes and I made my way to the first seminar of the day I challenged myself to never stand in line the same way again. OK, I know, that sounds a bit weird, here is what I mean.
Did you have a front porch where you grew up? I did. we used to sit on it on summer nights and catch fireflies (by catch I mean hit with wiffle ball bats) chat with neighbors and listen to the sounds of a lazy summer evening roll by. The front porch was like home base for the activities that filled endless summer days and nights. I feel like, maybe, those days are gone, especially in the break neck culture of Northern Virginia and the North East. The invention of the air conditioner keeps us inside more. Our schedules and pace of life keep us more secluded from neighbors than ever before. Each generation becomes more nomadic than the generation before with fewer and fewer deep community and family ties.
Gone are the days of the front porch communities. Yet, I did some research and I found that the average person spends more than 5 Years in line. 5 years, that translates into 1,825 days or 43,800 hours or 2,628,000 minutes! That is more than two and a half million minutes. Think about that the next time you are standing in line at the local supermarket, bank, or at your local coffee house? What could you do with 2.6 million minutes? What kind of community could you strengthen? So I have 8 suggestions for the next time you are waiting in line!
8. Learn the name of the person behind the register. (Especially when you see him/her on a regular basis)
7. Pray for someone in line. No, I don’t mean to go up to them in the middle of Starbucks and ask them if you can pray for them! “God, Please heal Bob from his caffeine addiction.” Listen, you may not know their name, their struggle, or the praise that has captivated their spirit for that day, but God does. Praying for people in this manner transforms your heart and spirit to be more aware of the people around you and it makes your spirit more malleable in God’s hand!
6. Give someone your business card. After a few minutes of chatting with a person, when appropriate, give them your business card. You never know these days when someone may need to talk. I have found in my years of ministry and working at Starbucks that some people, initially, are more willing to share with a caring “stranger” than they are with a relative or spouse. Who knows you may get a chance to hear someones story? Awesome!
5. Pay for the drink of the person behind you? Set it up with the cashier to anonymously pay for the drink of the person 3 people behind you? Why? Why not! I know… I Know.. $4.50 a drink is why not, right? Listen, I am not saying do it everyday? It doesn’t have to be coffee either, I love doing this at toll booths!
4. When appropriate give a compliment to someone in line! Hey, those are nice shoes! Do you think they sell those in a 14? My favorite is to compliment mothers on how cute their children are, even if the baby looks like Winston Churchill and is licking the frappuccino display stand.
3. This is one of my favorites. Play 6 degrees of separation. There is a theory that we are all only separated by 6 people. That you could pick any 2 people and somehow link those 2 people together using 6 other people as the human links in the chain. Now, I am not trying to find a long lost relatives or anything. However, I will just ask people, “Where do you work?”, “Where did you go to school?” or “Where did you grow up?”. I can usually find a connection with people that will spark a conversation.
2. This next one can really set the stage for the previous 6. Hold the door for at least one person. Even if you have the right of way, hold the door!
1. OK, I lied. I only have 7, but this is where you come in. This is where you comment on your ideas of how to build community and love your neighbor with your 2.5 million minutes! Remember, time is of the essence!
DISCLAIMER: On most of these lines I use the caveat “when appropriate”. Most of the time, married men should not compliment, learn the names of and or buy drinks for 22 year old single attractive women. That is not called building community, it’s called something else!
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