My Dad is a talker. To my knowledge, he has never met a stranger. He can make conversation with anyone. But it’s not superficial conversation. He has a knack for casually conversing with people as if they were old friends.
When I was growing up my Dad would take us out to lunch after Mass on Sundays. He really felt that since my Mom spent the other six days of the week preparing fine meals for our family of seven that it was only right that Sunday afternoon lunch was his turn to treat her.
When Dad first started this tradition we went to Taco Bell. It was not fancy, but it was affordable. We’d arrive around the same time each week and pile in to place our orders. Dad would get things started. He always had such a presence about him; confident, poised, and ready for great conversation. He’d head right to the front and place his order.
As each of the rest of us finished, my Dad would make casual conversation with the employee entering the orders. Soon he would engage a few other employees in conversation as they prepared the food and drinks. He’d learn their names, as well as a host of other things about them; whether they were in school, whether they had children, anything and everything.
My siblings and I thought this was embarrassing. “Come on Dad, just leave them alone,” we’d say. We’d give him “the look” that meant, “Just let them do their job. They’re only humoring you.” But he would keep at it. Every single week he’d do this.
If there was a new person on the line, he’d visit with them as well as keep up with all the regulars. He remembered everything. In fact, if someone had humored him in the beginning it only took a few weeks for them to realize that my Dad really was being sincere. It wasn’t a game; he genuinely cared about them as people.
Now that I’m an adult I find myself at the grocery store, the post office, and other public places doing exactly what my Dad used to do. Sometimes I get funny looks from people like, “What happy pill did she take today?” but other times people will beam as if I am the first person to acknowledge them that day. And that is what is so striking about it.
When my Dad would engage people in conversation he was acknowledging their humanity. We live in a society that sees people as numbers; cogs in the great wheel of life. But as Catholics, we are called to acknowledge each other as human beings made in the image and likeness of God. That’s exactly what Dad was doing. And that’s exactly what Dad was teaching each time he entered the public forum. It’s from my Dad that I learned this concrete way to love my neighbor as myself.
Sarah is a stay-at-home Mom of three talkers. She enjoys making conversation at The Happy, Resourceful Home.
photo with permission from Fankhauser Photography