As I sit in a hotel lobby in West Hollywood, I realize I am really out of my element. I gaze at the mismatched furniture, eclectic mix of old paintings and antique armoires, fixtures from what seems like the Victorian era, and understand the world might have passed me by a bit. This ain’t the Red Roof Inn.
I’m attending a speaking workshop where the presenter is helping us understand that speaking material is all around us. He talks about the “speaker’s lifestyle” of walking a half step slower than everyone else and just noticing the interesting and noteworthy things surrounding us.
Like our hotel. This place really doesn’t get me. It looks (and smells) kinda strange.
But, there is charm. I find myself staring at things I don’t understand trying to categorize the placement of certain pieces of furniture while attempting to get into the obviously chaotic mind of the decorator. Why is there a stack of random books in that corner? Why are they using old-timey incandescent lightbulbs instead of CFL’s? Why are there so many pillows on this couch?
A place like this begs more questions. The charm isn’t immediately obvious, but it is there. In order to figure out why I like it (even though on paper I shouldn’t) there is some work to be done.
Our presenter calls this “circling”. Just as you would see a plane circling the airport or buzzards circling a carcass, there is much to be noticed in our world.
The problem is, we are too busy observing and commenting on the other people’s lives and not spending much time living our own. We want to critique, categorize, and condemn anything that seems a little different while missing what treasure could be found.
One of the reasons I love my job is I get to sit and talk with teenagers who are quite different than me. I didn’t grow up with their issues. They listen to different music, have different values and worldview, but still have something about them.
When we “circle” something, we look at things from different angles. It’s like going to your house from a different direction. When you pull into your driveway coming from the opposite direction, it seems like you are coming home to a completely different home.
Or your house might seem different if you walk up to it instead of drive up. You see things you might not have seen because you were moving a little slower.
Working with teenagers is the same. You have to spend the time, ask the right questions and be curious. What might seem like a person you would never relate to might look quite different after you spend time “circling” and finding new angles.
I guess my encouragement to the reader is to do the hard work of getting to know a teenager in your life – especially one who you would think is very different from you and your worldview. You will be surprised what you find if you will just “circle” a bit. If you don’t understand at first, take another “pass”. Ask a different question. Be curious.
After staying a few days in this hotel, I absolutely love it. It’s weird, chaotic, and beautiful. I just had to spend some time with it.