when i say “meeting” i mean a myriad of things. from actually going out of your way to go across town and meet people where they physically are, to trying to understand where someone’s
political/ideological/religious/personal beliefs or standards stem from, to making specific language choices so whomever it is you are speaking to can “pick you well.”
one cannot necessarily expect others to meet you where you are, but one can be prepared and equipped to meet others where they are. otherwise where are you? alone, without conversation (the kind where you are truly conversing and not convincing) and missing opportunities for community and personal growth. that and you just seem like an ass. (and while “i’m and ass, and you’re an ass” and “what would you expect from an ass?” sometimes i do try to avoid seeming as such. [HT* to kmm.])
and, perhaps, a part of truly meeting people where they are is not expecting them to necessarily do the same. placing expectations and assumptions on people is already like building a small wall in the relationship–in doing so i have found that this creates division before a union could even be attempted. however, i have found that when i do meet someone who is also making a conscious effort to meet me where i am that there is an instant connection–if not a quickly formed friendship that goes beyond that of acquaintance in a matter of minutes, at least a strong mutual respect and, if nothing else, a strong working relationship. these are rare and beautiful moments to be treasured and honored, but not expected.
these past three years have given me ample opportunities to practice and exercise the muscles necessary for meeting people where they are. there is something about being an obvious outsider in at least some respect, that has really heightened my desire to make that effort. in a way this was a selfish decision–my desire to fit in driving the scramble for understanding and wanting to blend in/be as invisible as possible. on the other hand, doing this work affirms the humanity and person-hood† of those i was working to meet and made what could have been superficial and patriarchal relationships something much more profound and mutually life giving.
often times i have found myself standing on the total opposite side of an argument regarding religion, politics or personal matters with people whose community i have been trying to be a part of, and realizing that if i were not working to understand where they were coming from or how they got there i could have easily written them off as “ignorant” or “backwards” as others have historically have done. through trying to understand culture, place, people and person-hood i try to be conscious of personally doing the leg-work towards meaningful relationships beginning where others are and searching for our common ground where we can stand together. that place where we can come back to from exploring different or opposing thoughts.
my point in meeting people where they are is not to necessarily bring them to where i am. i do not typically proselytize my faith, but will discuss it; i do not try to convince you of my political stance** (very often) and do not think my personal preferences are The Only Way to live. my point is to understand. or at least try to.
“its not necessarily wrong, it’s just different.”
*for those not up on the latest blog-lingo: this means
hat-tip/thanks/i stole this from you, etc.
**protesting and rabble-rousing aside.
other related lessons that i will not expound on at the moment:
• holding two seemingly-incompatible ideas at the same time (for relationship and conversational sake–holding my beliefs and ideas in one hand and someone else’s in the other so as to be able to converse and be able to meet them where they are (especially when others are incapable/unequipped/not ready to do the same.))
• how to wait (buses/travel, bank queue, for the man with the key, for answers [that may never come])