One of my best friends going through college was a young man named William. Rarely did any of his closest friends call him William. To us he was “Chump.” Chump was kind, smart, really funny, and a great athlete. He played free safety for us at Jacksonville State University. He lived just down the hall from me and I’d go hang out with he and his roommate Solomon from time to time. Chump grew up in Reeltown, AL, population 766 (as of 2010). Reeltown was just down the road from Tallassee which happened to be their big rival in high school football. Both of these small towns are located in Southeast Alabama between Montgomery to the west and Auburn to the east.
Before I tell you more about Chump, let me share with you something I learned when I first got into sales over 25 years ago. In going through sales training, one of the important things that I learned was how to deal with objections. “Objection handling,” is what it was often called among sales trainers and other sales “gurus.” The reality is that there are two kinds of objections.
For our purposes, we’ll deal with real ones. Fake ones are when someone is just trying to get rid of the salesperson and they’re just making stuff up. Real ones are when someone has a real concern and they are unsure if your product or service adequately meets their needs. Good salespeople are able to snuff out the fake ones and uncover the real ones. The principle I learned in this is that the good conversations often take place after the objection. Many salespeople pack up and leave when the person gives them a reason that they may not want the product. Great salespeople listen and are not offended, put off, or angry with these objections. They look at it as an opportunity to learn how they may (or may not) be able to help their potential customer. (Comic Relief—Warning: in the first 10 seconds the “s” word is used, otherwise, clean clip—don’t watch if you don’t want to hear the “s” word)
Back to Chump. I can say that I truly loved being around Chump. He was just a genuine good guy. The fact that he made me laugh a lot was a bonus. But beyond the laughter and fun we had some serious conversations. Sure we talked about sports, girls, and those things, but we also talked about life, God, and race. One evening Chump and I found ourselves sitting in the hall looking at an interesting article in the USA Today. The article asked a series of questions to white Americans and black Americans and compared the answers. The questions were to get the different perspectives on different social, political, moral, and other types of things. We sat and went through each question. Sometimes the answers were painful. I can remember learning things in the conversation that really surprised me. Some of his perspectives, based on his own experience and upbringing was hurtful to me. Chump wasn’t trying to be hurtful. He was being honest. And, I was a better man for having had the conversation.
I share these memories because I see our current climate as shutting down conversations that need to happen before they even get started. Back to my sales training comments above…many times the best conversations occur after someone has said something we disagree on. This is not the time to shut down the conversation or to get angry. I’m speaking to those of us who claim to be followers of Christ here. If someone, anyone is engaged in conversation about race, police brutality, social inequities, etc. Listen. All of us. We must listen. Even if we vehemently disagree with what is being said, instead of making assumptions about the person’s character, we need to consider that for some reason the person thought it was important enough to talk about. That is a starting point. Disagreements cannot be the end of the conversation. In many cases we can let them be the beginning. I believe that God is doing something through the horrible events that have brought us to this point. My pastor shared a verse Sunday that was one of my memory verses years ago as I began the battle of controlling my tongue.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
My prayer is that God will use the Church, the Body of Christ, to bring healing. It can only happen as we listen, learn, and love. By the way, Chump, thanks for being a great friend, it would be great to see you again.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.