cultivating meaningful conversation pt.2


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“what has been inspiring you lately?”

I work at a really, really groovy coffee shop. Gorgeous white walls, lots of natural brick, oodles of adorable plants, and excellent coffee. However, (and perhaps this is cliché to say but) the most beautiful thing about this place is the people. This shop is a hubbub in our city for diversity and down-to-earth people. The customers are wonderful and my fellow employees are some of the most genuine people I have ever met. So when I’m not working at this little shop, I’m probably sitting at the bar writing or talking to people. (I’m all too aware that I’m rambling at this point but I am setting the scene for my story so bear with me.)  The bar is where everything happens. Whenever friends come in, they sit there. Whenever our fellow coworkers come in, they sit there. Whenever our customers want to chat with the baristas about mission work or their newest grandchild, they sit there.

Last week, I was standing at the bar making a pourover of medium roast coffee and watching the bubbles bloom and simmer in the coffee grounds. I paused to let the coffee drip and to inhale the delicious coffee-y scent. My friend who was sitting on one of the high metal chairs, elbows propped on the rough, wood counter asked,” So, what has been inspiring you lately?”

There was no, “How have you been?”

“Good, how are things in your life?”

“Good.”

“Good!”

Nope, there was none of that small talk. (You know what I’m talking about: that small talk that all of us secretly hate but continue to perpetuate?) I was so taken aback by her query and exclaimed, “What a great question! I love it!” She had surprised herself too, “I guess that is a pretty great question,” she said laughing. And then something magical happened: we started sharing things that had recently been inspiring us. Podcasts, blogs, experiences, books, movies, magazines, news articles. A mutual friend, a girl with fabulously curly hair, walked up to the bar, sat down, and joined our conversation, “Is it weird that I’ve been really inspired by my family lately?” A fellow employee walked out of the kitchen to put away some coffee mugs, “Hey, what has been inspiring you lately?” we asked him. Ideas and creative sparkles started flying through the air.

After bouncing our thoughts and ideas off of each other, we each walked away feeling refreshed and inspired. The next morning I wrote this in my Idea Journal: “Last night I could hardly still my mind. I got home from work feeling extremely inspired and grateful. My mind spinning with ideas.” After writing which, I proceeded to fill up an entire page with ideas for new blog-posts, articles, collaborations, and beautiful things that I wanted to create. A simple conversation had exploded a whole fireworks display of creativity for me.

The simple question, “What has been inspiring you lately?” triggered a breakthrough moment me. Small talk is stupid and although most of us already realize this, we sadly continue to perpetuate this cultural norm. Unfortunately, I can’t eradicate this long tradition of how-are-yous and nice-weather-we’re-havings with one blog post, but I can challenge you, my dear readers. Tomorrow, on your day back after this long Labor Day weekend, ask a friend, or family member, or coworker, or even a complete stranger, “What has been inspiring you lately?” Just do it. (insert Nike swish here) And if you dare to take on this challenge, I think you will be outrageously and wonderfully surprised at how many glittering, magical ideas are out there. Just waiting to be shared.


 

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