Leadership expert Steven Covey says, “When we listen with the intent to understand others, rather than with the intent to reply, we begin true communication building.”
While sitting in Bryant Park recently, two bright young lads approached me and asked some very personal questions about my thoughts on life. Although they didn’t come right out and say it, turns out they were missionaries for the Unification Church, otherwise known as the Moonies.
The funny thing is that the very day before I had watched an interview with the creators of the highly acclaimed new musical, Book of Mormon and the topic of missionaries and religion was top of mind, so I was more open than usual to engage with them while soaking up some sun.
Instead of automatically dismissing them, I asked questions about where they were from, what they had experienced since they’d been in NYC and what they hoped to gain while here. I did offer my opinion about how trying to convince people of what to believe was a pretty fruitless endeavor, that each individual is on their own path and needs to come to their own understanding of religion, spirituality etc in their own way, in their own time.
I suggested that they should just do what they love, be the best version of themselves they can be and that in itself would do more than anything else. I hoped that they would savor this experience of traveling and meeting so many different types of people from themselves (one was from Wyoming, the other from Washington State), which would do more to enrich their lives and connection to humanity than actually recruiting others to their belief system.
It was a pleasant and respectful conversation, and I think we each came away feeling it was a positive interaction. And I did ask about some of the principles and mission of the church, which I did not necessarily disagree with, as I can always find points of connection with just about anyone – because there is a little bit of all of us in each other and a little bit of truth in everything if you listen and look for it, and we have much more in common than we think we do.
With so much anti-Muslim sentiment and political divisiveness these days, on top of a crumbling planet and economy, Brotherly (& Sisterly!) Love, under whatever label you’d like to call it, is the only glue that will hold together a planet currently patched together, to coin a good friend’s term, with ‘bubble gum and rubber bands.’
So if you’re feeling like Humpty Dumpty, Little Bo Peep’s lost sheep or Michael Stipe, give me a buzz and I’ll proselytize you to yourself, converting you into your biggest believer, so you can get out there and make your corner of the world a little brighter for us all!