Between studying for my bachelor’s and my master’s degrees I was taking Greek at Minnesota Bible College, building water softeners for a plumbing operation and working at a grocery store deli. It is fair to say I wasn’t part of a huge fraternity — a psychology and religion major learning Greek while being a plumber and working a delicatessen before going to seminary. I was one of a kind.

While working in the deli I watched an interesting exchange between a customer and several grocery store employees. The elderly customer, dressed to the nines for her outing, asked, “Excuse me young man, can you tell me where the rolling pins are?”

The acne-infested young man replied, “I’ll see.” And took off.

The lady waited a couple minutes, patiently, but finally felt compelled to stick out her umbrella and corral another mop-haired employee and asked, “Would you kindly tell me where the rolling pins are?”

Like his predecessor he replied, “I’ll see.”

Now she was waiting for two young men to scout the place and come back to her. After several more minutes, her patience wearing thin, she summoned a young lady heading from clocking-in to the registers. “Young lady, see if you are smarter than the boys who work here. Where do you have your rolling pins?”

The perky little cheerleader gave her the same response the two boys had given, “I’ll see.”

I could tell by her impatience that she thought very little of the seek-n-find abilities of Generation X. Or maybe she though they didn’t care for their elders. Either way, she was about to blow her top.

As much as I was enjoying the farce in front of me, I decided, keen observer and budding professional caregiver that I was, to rescue the situation for all generations involved. I said, “Ma’am, I believe I can help you. Aisle A is spices. Aisle B is flour and sugar, etc. AISLE C is where kitchen ware is kept.”

I enunciated Aisle C slowly and let the realization hit her, and the light bulb went on. She was hearing “I’ll see” when what was being said was “Aisle C.”

I had worked with international students in college and I had developed an acute understanding of homonyms and how confusing they could be. To, too and two are examples of homonyms, as are hear and here and air and heir. There are tons of homonyms and they can make communication very challenging — even among people who know the language.

I hear people wonder about how several people can see the same thing and make two entirely different interpretations of it. I don’t wonder. I wonder sometimes why they stop at two.

It all starts with our mindsets. The elderly woman at the grocery store thought that she was summoning those young employees on a mission so she interpreted their answers that way. The employees thought they were answering her questions and upon answering were on their way to their next task. But both mindsets meant that they had understood things the way they wanted to understand them — completely ending the possibility that there might be another interpretation.

I am left-handed in a right-handed world. I am a middle child in a one-gendered family. That means I am used to dealing with multiple interpretations of things.

We were friends with a couple and both were outstanding listeners — he because he was a lawyer and she because she was a teacher. The lawyer listened in order to refute. The teacher listened in order to understand. The lawyer listened to shut down and win. The teacher listened to expand knowledge. Both excellent listeners. Both different mindsets.

How do we listen? Do we listen because we have an agenda? Do we listen because we love? I wonder sometimes if because I have been called to be a Christian leader that means that I hear things differently from other people; because God’s love for the world is my interpretive framework it makes me think that my mind follows a different path. The same noise is heard but we don’t always hear the same thing.

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

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