Posted by: MC | January 16, 2012

Sam @ Starbucks

Sam is a barista at the Starbucks where I did a good number of the initial interviews. I’m actually sitting here right now.  I came to know of Sam from voice 006, Leila Bowen, who was the manager here during that time.  She hired Sam just before she left for another position.  I remember her saying really complimentary things about him – how she thought he was management material.

Today I told Sam that he too is in the 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change book.  Not his name, but his appearance and his … well … vibe.  He came to mind as part of the explanation of an idea that is really central to the book, so I finally introduced myself a few minutes ago and told him about it.  Here’s the part where Sam showed up (it’s the lead into section 7).

I was back to Portland.  Eighty-six voices, seventy days and 10,000 miles.  Through all kinds of land, all kinds of weather.   Still vibrating at the edges of my driving mind were I-80 through Iowa, I-70 out of  Denver and the trundling company of all manner of giganto-truck traffic.  The Mini made it and was now in the shop…for four weeks.  But, I was back safe and sound and on for finding the final fourteen.

I’d been thinking a lot about how easy it is to think I know someone when I don’t.  What I know is the story I tell myself about that person, but it may not be very accurate.  The truth of the matter is we all throw our stories into each other.  Whatever they are and wherever they’ve been laid in, we all carry conscious and unconscious ways of assessing people when we first meet them.  It’s actually a very natural and fundamentally positive social impulse.  We see people and we have the affiliative reflex of wondering how it is for them, who they are.

Say I’m in the check out line.  I glance toward the cashier.  Without intent, and often without even noticing, I tell myself a small story.  Maybe it’s only, “That guy has enormous earrings.”  I’m also noticing clothes, size, gender, age, ethnicity and lots of other stuff.  These things contribute to the story I wrap around that person.  They may or may not be right, but I don’t have any particular motive.  It’s just a thing.

If I were to enter into more substantive social interaction with the cashier; for example, if over time we were to have regular interaction and even develop a friendship, my story would grow.  I’d have more information with each interaction.  Where I get into trouble is when I’m not willing to change my story with the arrival new information.  I start ignoring the person and their dignity when maintaining my version of the cashier – or of my work colleague, or my next door neighbor, or the president, or my daughter – is more important to me than accepting new information.

Sometimes new information is difficult.  We don’t want it to be true about the person across from us.  This is especially the case when those with whom we are most closely related let us know of something about them that may be hard to take.  They are ill.  They are moving far away.  They have fallen in love with someone we do not trust.  Other times, new information is jettisoned because it doesn’t fit well with what we know to be true of people like that.

Only a few days until departure on EX:Change II – actually, I don’t have a name for this next adventure yet.  Any suggestions?

The energy is building!  Talking with Sam, having more facebook friends LIKEing the pages for EX:Change and 100VoicesAmericansTalkAboutChange, seeing more formal followers on this blog.  On we go!  Thanks for joining me – yes – in the radical act of listening.

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