Zen and the art of… conversation

So, we’re playing a gig at Des Moines Area Community College, in a student commons area. I had just gotten off stage from playing and sharing a brief story about relationships in my life, and how that had revealed my spiritual needs (in addition to emotional ones). A guy walked up and said ‘Hi’ and complimented our band. He had some questions, so I welcomed him to the dialogue by sliding an ottoman towards him with my foot. “Got a minute?”

“Yeah,” he said, sitting down. “A few, anyway.”

He could have been any other mid-western guy on campus – except he looked maybe 32, not 18. I found out that he’s been living Singapore, teaching English. He was back in the States to get a degree in teaching – then, back Singapore to teach.

“I’m Scott,” I said, shaking his hand. Then he told me his name was ‘Ananda’. Not ‘Dave’ or ‘Toby’ or ‘Brad’. Ananda. I asked about that, and he told me it was a Sanskrit name, and that his parents were Hindu. “Is that your spiritual heritage…?” I asked. He looked about as ‘Iowa’ as they come . “Not really”, he said. “I’m Buddhist”.

We talked a bit more. He didn’t seem to be the sort of guy that had decided to be a Buddhist because it was fashionable, or because it would make an easy, non-exclusive spiritual answer. We talked about why our band was there – to help start spiritual dialogues. He knew that we were there working with a Christian student group on campus – he had filled out a survey and left his info at their display table not far from the stage. He got the free water bottle or backpack or whatever they were giving out. A few words after that, and then he had to go.

And that was it. This isn’t one of those dynamic stories where someone turns around in their tracks, or whatever. Ananda knows what we were about, and he knows who to talk to on campus if he has more questions. I think that he does.

Here’s what didn’t happen – he didn’t keep on walking. Because we were there, he stopped, talked, and engaged. And now he knows where he can get more open, honest dialogue about what it means to follow Jesus. For as many stories we can tell about people who make decisions about their relationship with God, there are many more like Ananda who just need something authentic and interesting to get the conversation started.

I really do love my job…