My dad, Merritt Bernhardt Ketcham, was born in Missouri on this date in 1907, so he would be 105 today. He died way too young, before he had a chance to meet his grandson Michael Gilmore or granddaughter Susanna Martin, my sister's daughter, though his death in 1970 meant that he had time with his first grandchild, Joel Martin. He would have enjoyed knowing Tennyson Ketcham, my brother's daughter, born several years after his death. Happy Birthday, Daddy, wherever you are. Your spirit remains with us.
Saturday mornings, if I feel I can afford the carb splurge, I stop by the local bakery/coffee shop on my beach loop walk. It's about 10 minutes from my house and only open during the off-season on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I had the good fortune to be introduced to this local gathering spot by a new friend, Pat, who is a longtime resident. We met there for coffee shortly after we connected at a North Coast Land Conservancy event and have been meeting there almost every Saturday morning ever since.
Yesterday, I got there a little early and took a seat among these new acquaintances, chiming in on the conversation occasionally. It was all guys when I got there and I've noticed that conversations tend to change when women show up, but I like hearing the things men talk about (if not locker-room type stuff), so I asked a few questions about the topic (the non-existence of frost heaves at the coast) and learned a few things in the process.
After awhile, I heard a couple of guys at the next table talking about something interesting; a guy I didn't know was telling his friend the geologist (whom I did know) that what he was learning about rocks and geologic time was making him wonder about the theology of his Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation. At a lull in the conversation, the geologist guy introduced me to the MSL guy and I joined them.
This led to a sharing of stories about our experiences growing up in various churches and the events that had brought us to the current religious (or non-religious) place we are today. It was rich and revealing and I've been thinking about it ever since.
I notice that many times my best conversations are with men. For sure that was true yesterday. I often have good conversations with women as well, but they are different. We have different topics---relationships, news about each other, our creative efforts, our personal lives. With men, I've noticed that the topics are often about technology, science, and, of course, sports. I can hold my own with science and technology, even if it's just listening and asking questions; sports----gag! Not interested.
Yesterday, I noticed that MSL guy and geologist guy stayed pretty superficial on the topic until I joined them and injected a personal story into the mix---how I moved from a conservative religious upbringing to a very liberal religious stance. Then their stories came out as well.
I think men are slow to tell their personal stories until they have heard someone else's story and since women are quicker to do this, women often start this thread of conversation.
I think hearing personal stories gives people a chance to think of their own stories and link to the one they're hearing. But you have to have an invitation to tell your story; it's hard to just burst into a story that nobody has asked to hear.
A preacher has been given an open invitation to tell his/her own story---I think it's why I was a pretty good preacher, because I shared my own stories, and many people commented that they appreciated my openness. All my sermons had a personal connection.
As a listener to sermons, I hope for a story that will tell me how my life is related to the speaker's life. It makes the sermon more engaging for me. It's important, however, for the story not to be self-serving or insensitive. You can't boast or appear arrogant unless you acknowledge it and resolve it in a sensitive way, a fact I've learned the hard way.
As I get more comfortable with new friends, I find I'm not as averse to their knowing that I'm a retired minister. I really avoided identifying myself in that way for several weeks; now I'm not so shy, though I only reveal it if asked. I was initially afraid people would jump to stereotypical conclusions, but I'm finding that's not happening. Most are only mildly interested. Guess it's not really about who I WAS, but who I AM. Nice.