Sweet Hot Electric Water.
That was what we dubbed the shower at the place where we stayed in Botswana, Africa while on a mission trip with a group of High school seniors and college students. There was nothing wrong with the place where we stayed, it was just that there was some sort of mix up between the electrical wires and the plumbing. Every time one of the females stepped in to the shower, they got shocked. You can’t plan for things like that….a shower that carries with it a small, but invigorating electric current. Certainly Paul never wrote about that in his list of hardships while traveling to spread the Gospel.
We would laugh and laugh as we talked about the “sweet, hot, electric water”. But the next day when one of the property managers came by, I walked straight toward him, determined to see if we could get this situation resolved. Now in our team trainings at home and on the field, they talked about the differences in cultures, and how we interact with the people we would meet in Botswana. They stressed the importance of greeting people. They told us that greetings are not the sort of thing you brush past. No, before you move forward in the conversation, get to the “business” at hand, you must take time to properly say hello, to inquire about the other person, to be fully present in the conversation.
Well I quickly walked up to the manager, and without even thinking I said, “Hey, we are having a little trouble with some wires and water in the shower, do you think someone could take a look at it?” The manager looked at me for a moment, and his smile lessened. It was as if he was graciously willing to look past my act of rudeness in order to teach me an important lesson. ” He interrupted my ramblings and said, “Excuse me….good morning.”
I stopped as my mind raced to figure out where that response came from, I had clearly already said hello. But then I remembered….I messed up. I knew that nothing was going to be done about the “liquid shock” coming from the shower head until we started things off right. I smiled at him and said, “good morning, how are you?” We talked for just a few moments and then the man said, “so….there is a problem with the shower?”
My wife made me a journal when I went to Africa so that I could write down what I learned on my trip. I learned so many things during that time, but I only wrote down one idea….GREETINGS MATTER! I learned that greetings set the tone of the conversation. Your greetings greatly affects the direction of your words, and many times it is what we say in the beginning of a conversation that plays a role in the outcome.
For the people of Botswana, greetings not only frame the conversation, they are the soil from which a conversation grows. A clear and genuine “hello” or “welcome”, a few words of interest in the other person you are speaking to….these things are part of hospitality and a way to honor one another. Here in the West, we brush past greetings as a necessary (but not really important) part of getting to what we really want to say. Even when we do say, “how are you?” we are not really asking about the well-being of the other person….that is just a way of saying, “hey”. We wouldn’t know what to do if we asked that question and someone replied with more than one or two words.
As I look back, I realize that the way I start a conversation is sometimes an insight into my heart. Sometimes a lack of genuine greeting at the beginning of a conversation reveals my true motives, my priorities, and my focus. But what if we began to take greeting others seriously. How would it set the tone for the day if you greeted your spouse, really greeted her in the morning when you woke up, or in the evening when you returned home? How would your children respond if you looked them in the eyes, welcomed them, and listened to how they are doing today? What about your co-workers? Your boss? Friends at church? What about your Father in heaven? Do you brush past a genuine greeting, of listening and engaging, in order to get to what you want?
Don’t miss the opportunity that exists in every conversation you will have today….start well….take a deep breath….and say hello.
PS. The sweet, hot, electric water stayed with us, though they were able to lower the voltage. The girls didn’t seem to mind and nobody got hurt. And if you read this and decide to start a band….please consider using sweet, hot, electric water….or even “The SHEW Band” for short.