“YO-YO. Wad up Bro/Sis, nice to meetcha.”
*Violent stare* “Who are you?!” …..
*Switches to smile* “Just Keeding. Nice to meet you, I’m Oliver.”
These are typical examples of the things I’ve said or done to ease the tension of meeting someone new. Most of the time, the follow-ons don’t turn out the way I envision them to be. But no matter what, if it doesn’t work, I keep going and going and going…
Going for exchange (in the UK) has definitely moulded my social mechanisms even further. I still remember traveling around Manchester, Birmingham and London alone; I’d go to a random bar, ask to sit with a random stranger and strike up a conversation. Well, most of the time the conversations end up to be about football, which I happen to be an ardent fan of. But sometimes, these conversations become really interesting, and in that short span of time, I manage to get a peek into the life of the person I’m talking to. That is what I really enjoy, listening into the lives of people and hearing about what makes them feel happy.
Recently, I was reading an article about “the things that would piss off a Singaporean”. One of the things mentioned was the comment, “Wow you speak very fluent English!” Indeed, almost every person I had spoken to whilst on exchange would pass that remark, but it didn’t irritate me. What irritated me the most was when some guy asked if I was from Iraq (seriously?). Anyway, thinking back, I’m truly grateful that I was brought up to learn how to speak English fluently, because having this skill really helped me to settle in England, where majority of the friends I hung out with were English. By speaking their language, I gained a ticket into their lives, and they gained entry into mine. On the exterior, I was being this cool Asian kid who could speak with a unique British accent, on the interior, I secretly marvelled at how God could grant mutual acceptance between people from two much differed cultures.
Of course, language is only one of the barriers you need to overcome when reaching out to someone. There is also a need to engage the person at a level he or she is at, because before conversion comes acceptance. That is what I’m willing to do, to make myself available to the people I engage, to listen attentively, to try to be that someone who understands where they are coming from and to make them feel comfortable. I believe God has granted me the necessary gifts, so I intend to use them. Or at least, I feel that’s the direction that he’s been calling me towards.
Now that I’m back in Singapore, the cycle of meeting new people and forming new acquaintances continues. Many people fear the awkwardness that tends to arise when two strangers meet, but I personally do not. I once had an opportunity to meet the PM of Singapore Mr Lee Hsien Loong in his own house and believe me, the first words that left my mouth were, “Hi, Uncle.” Thank goodness the setting was in his home, if it were some official dialogue, I’d be breaking some serious social rules. I see awkwardness as a necessary first step for us to overcome in any form of relationship, and once you train yourself to love it more, perhaps God could open new doors in your life, and in the lives of others.
So, with all that I’ve said, maybe God is asking me to be one of those taking the lead. I shall put on an armour of very thick-skin, hold a sword of shamelessness, wear a helmet of perseverance, and together, we will embrace this awkwardness and continue to forge God’s kingdom on earth!
Oliver is an outgoing person who secretly loves playing with soft toys. Thankfully, not many people get to see that side of him, except for times when he feels tired, or crazy enough. Never afraid to crack a joke, he strives to bring out the whacky side of others, which he also believes is secretly hiding inside them..