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This past week I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries. One on the Cuban Missile Crisis really drove home the importance of communication.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on

For those of you who don’t remember the historic specifics, Russia put missiles in Cuba. These missiles made the US a viable target. Kennedy announced that any Russian ship trying to approach Cuba with military weapons would be considered hostile.

A Russian sub was detected by the Americans. The agreed upon method to tell an enemy sub to surface and surrender was to drop charges. What the two sides hadn’t agreed on was how many charges should be dropped to send that particular message. The Russians expected a three charge memo. The Americans thought it took five charges to send the message, so that’s how many they dropped. Oddly enough, the Russians were hesitant to surface.

World War III nearly started because no one had thought to discuss how many charges should be dropped to signal a request to surrender. Never mind that it might be smart to find a better way to communicate.

This really spoke to me. How often do we assume that everyone sees things our way? After all, our way is logical. It is rational. It is natural and right. And if everyone we talk to agrees with us, that only reinforces our delusions. Then when someone doesn’t do what we think they should – BOOM.

The next time someone seems to be ignoring you or doesn’t give the answer you want, take a deep breath. Ask God to open your ears and heart. Maybe just maybe, you are talking past each other and none of us meer mortals has the complete picture.

As if we were submerged in a big, old can.


When I posted the above image on my Facebook page, it launched quite a discussion with my aunt.  She pointed out that questions about jobs and houses and college are how we try to connect.  Which is true.

But it may not be the best way.

In diversity training, we learn that there are questions that carry cultural and economic baggage.  If you are middle class, you may not immediately realize this. These questions include:

Where do you work?  Which assumes that not only do you have a job but that it is vitally important.  People who work in service jobs may be okay discussing work with similarly employed people, but management?  Um, no.

Do you own your house?  Another money question.  What’s our hang up?  Oh, right.  We really value money.  But not everyone can or wants to own a house.  Launching into a lecture about “good investments” isn’t going to change their minds.

Where are you going to college?  College is not the ideal choice for everyone.  Some people just aren’t suited to this particular path.  Other people can’t afford it.  Or they can only afford local and non-residential.  Launching into a passionate speech about dorm life or sorority as a vital part of the college/growing-up experience?  Sigh.  Millions of people have grown into functional, thriving adults without this particular experience.  Really.  You’re talking to one of them.

When we launch into these topics, we often are not connecting with people.  We are putting up barriers as we try to direct the conversation toward what matters to us.  What then do you discuss?

With my friend’s youngest son, I ask him what he’s reading.  He is always reading something and it is never what anyone would guess.

One of the teens always has on a t-shirt with a saying.  We talk about her shirts.

Another teen is into all thing super hero so that’s what I bring up.  Or we argue, I mean discuss, the plausibility or implausibility of various movies.  The Meg, for example, would not have been able to survive in the deep ocean without equally huge prey.  He would have also lost his eyes and his countershading since he wasn’t swimming within sight of sunlight.

In the story of the Tower of Babel, multiple languages were created to divide mankind.  Me?  I’ve always assumed we do enough of this ourselves when we assume that everyone values the same things that we do.


Him: What’s wrong?

Me:  Nothing.

Him:  Seriously. What’s wrong?

Me:  Well, you are getting annoying but other than that nothing.

Him:  Then quit it.

Me: …

And this, my friends, is when we discovered that I sigh when my asthma is bothering me.  I’m not going to admit how many years I’d been dealing with asthma before my son put it all together but this made me wonder.  How many people assumed that I was aggravated when I was just trying to draw a deep breath.

Humans are social animals. We live in groups.  You’d think that this would make us really good at telling what others are thinking but I don’t think that’s the case.

We are rearranging the seating in choir and a few people missed the rehearsal when everyone got shifted around.  When I tried to tell one of my fellow sopranos where her new seat was, she covered her face with both hands.  She had some in late and we were in the middle of actually singing so I couldn’t strike up a conversation right then and there.  But I did wonder – what the heck?  Attitude much?  When I had the opportunity to ask, I found out that she was in the middle of a migraine.

God granted us all the power of speech.  How often though do we make assumptions instead of making human connections and asking – what’s up?  There may not always be a problem or a problem we can address but we will have showed genuine carrying and made a connection.  We are, after all, social creatures.





Have a Mary Little Christmas

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