The boys were home this past weekend and so we lingered a while around the table, talking about their first couple weeks in classes and all the myriad of adjustments to be made when you begin a new season of life.  One thing that can be hard is all the new people that begin to populate your life.  But that part can also be overwhelming.  I confessed to them how hard that can be even at my stage of life, even though I’m an extrovert and love meeting people.  We were at a social gathering recently and I wasn’t feeling that well and wasn’t really in the curious and generous mood.  I wanted to enjoy my expensive dinner and read the book I had stowed away in my purse and pretend I was eating alone.  I have enough friends, I told myself.  And this woman is 20 years my senior and she’s not talkative, so this is going to be a monumental effort to make genuine conversation.

But then I remembered what I always tell my kids.  Teach yourself to be interested in people, to want to hear their stories.  And if you’re not interested, confess that as a flaw in yourself and pretend to be interested until your stubborn mind catches up.

I think we’re not that curious about other people because we have to stop thinking and talking about ourselves long enough to let them talk.  It takes humility—which Lewis says is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. And we are nothing if not hopelessly self-centered, so this humility and curiosity doesn’t come natural to any of us, least of all, me.

So, despite my own selfish thoughts, I started asking her questions.  Twenty minutes later I was sure she was one of the most fascinating women I had ever met.  I’m so glad I didn’t miss that opportunity, but it makes me wonder how many people I’ve let slip through my fingers because I was too self-absorbed to care.

I told the boys  and I keep reminding myself to stay curious—to cultivate the discipline of being interested in people.    Even if you’re not.  Even if you already have enough friends.  Even when it’s inconvenient.  Soon it will become more like habit and years later, you’ll find that what you’ve cultivated is a generous heart.


I’d be so curious to know when the last time you felt like someone did this for you?  Isn’t it wonderful when someone takes an interest in your life and wants to hear your story?



41 comments on “The One Quality of Great and Generous Minds”

  1. Love, love, love this – such a helpful framework to keep in mind as I enter the new school year with all the new relationships that brings. I want to be known as a generous person, and that comes not from financial abundance, but from an abundance of thought for others. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Ahhh it’s so what I experience! I have so many friends, the BEST of friends! Make, female, young, old. So when I’m feeling tired or spread thin I retreat a bit and stop making such an effort. But you’re right… Everyone has a story. And we miss out when we surrender to self. Love that Lewis reminder about humility. You wouldn’t believe how often I think of it. I love biographies as a genre too. Definitely connected. Hugs!! Glad your boys were home!

  3. Discoveries and diagnoses of the last year has wrought a radical change in my family’s lifestyle and my personal sphere. Friendships have shifted, capacities have changed, long time pursuits have been released due to need or greater cause. And, I’ve experienced isolation. Not loneliness- I’ve been given a deep well of friends and the easy ability to make more. But, separation. Pulled away from the friends, pulled away from the soul satisfying pursuits, and pulled away in general. And then, quietly, without seeking it, for the first time in my adult life, an older woman came alongside. I’ve always *been* the older woman- I’ve never received the silver gift of one who has walked before me. And her ability to draw from clear wells of experience, gracious counsel, and tender pursuit of me has started to put me back together. Her generous heart sought me, and while I’ve been necessarily withdrawn and meeting urgent needs for others, she has made the monumental effort to have genuine conversation. She has been a gospel gift and life giver this side of heaven.

  4. Not sure you’re familiar with the actor, Dominic Monaghan, but his motto is Be Curious. He has a great animal show called Wild Things on the BBC where he travels the world, meets people, and studies cool animals. He carries his Be Curious stickers around and gives them to others as a reminder to do the same. Great message!

  5. Thank yo so much for this reminder this morning. It has made me stop and think about how I can become more curious and more interested in others. I shared it on my FB page as I thought it may encourage others. Thank you.

  6. Girl… you just nailed me right between the eyes.
    I don’t know if it’s me being nervous or what… but I totally have diarrhea of the mouth when I meet strangers. I practice humility all the time, but it’s just major obvs I need to keep practicing.
    Thanks for a great reminder!

  7. I love this Edie!! Great reminder to invest in people. My spiritual gift is encouragement so God compels me to talk to and engage people. 🙂 It was a huge encouragement to me last week when someone told me that they appreciated me when I took the time to speak to them. It is always worth it!! 🙂

  8. This is wonderful, and timely. Thank you! I don’t comment often, but love your blog and your gift of words. You are such an inspiration and encouragement…God Bless!

  9. No so much anymore, but growing up I was a very introverted child. My mother taught me to become the conversation starter by asking questions. It has become one of my favorite ways to get to know other people. Over the years I have heard so many wonderful stories that I would have missed had my mother not encouraged me when I was just a shy teenage girl. Most people want to tell their stories and not enough of us ask for them. What blessings and friends we miss out on!

  10. I have this magazine I get and the theme this month was hospitality in the church. I had the children memorize this sentence…..and I have them remember it as they play with each other and have them repeat it when they fall into an argument (pit.)

    This is hospitality:
    “I care about you, and I want you to enjoy our time together.”

    I ask my children why they aren’t enjoying each other. However I ask them to keep the answer to themselves because our genetic default is that we blame the other for our lack of enjoyment. Right?

    So I ask them instead to turn their complaint and ask if they were guilty of doing exactly what they are blaming the other for…..The answer is always yes.

    This way, I get out of hearing the drama of “he did this, or she did that….blah blah blah. And without repeating the incident, they then must apologize to the other for what they did that created a lack of joy, and then I ask them what they are going to do differently. They then are allowed to express how they are going to play differently.

    I agree with you, hospitality is “caught” at home. If we are not hospitiable to those that mean the most to us, then we will never be hospitable to a stranger.

    Also, Hospitable means….love of strangers. I just found that out yesterday , so it’s funny you posted today about this.

  11. It happened most recently for me yesterday, when a mom I didn’t know at co-op (we’re new) picked up her lunch, changed tables & sat down with me to talk. Made. My. Day.

    I am too quick to often to think I have enough friends. Need to work on that. :-/

  12. Thank you for your wisdom and your beautiful writing style, Edie.
    This morning, a neighbor-friend called to ask how I was doing with my oldest two back
    in college, and she truly listened. Most people don’t ask or say, well you still have other children at home, so they incorrectly assume I am not feeling a loss. It is such a rare gift when someone asks about another’s life and then listens.

  13. Love your blog; I’m a longtime reader.

    What a great topic for today. Extending ourselves is one of the graces that seems to be dwindling fast. In college I was assigned to read How to Win Friends and Influence People, and it changed my life. Before then, I wasn’t dating at all and was lonely. Once I learned the secret of taking an interest in others, my social life took off. I had dates (and free dinners!) every weekend, no lie. And I ended up marrying way above myself. 🙂 Now the book is required reading in my classroom because I know this idea alone changes lives for the better.

  14. Your post today made me smile because it reminded me how I learned to be curious from my dad who is that guy who always had extra questions for the tour guide in Gettysburg or any other place we would go on our many educational family vacations, is always interested in meeting new people, and really knows how to engage with people from every walk of life.

    I was usually a little annoyed or embarrassed as a kid, but now it makes me feel like I’m honoring his example that he set (and still continues to do in his early 70’s) when I demonstrate curiosity in people and learning new things.

  15. So well said! I’ve been trying hard to be a better listener and stop talking about myself. It’s difficult, but I with work, I’ll succeed.

  16. Yesterday I went to Home Goods on mission, to find two candles, turn and burn I had a grip of things to do,when this lovely sweet gal and her mama decided they wanted to chit chat and show me pictures of their vacation! Everything in me was annoyed and put out when she kept talking, obviously oblivious to the fact I was making zero eye contact and thus wanted to leave. I felt the Holy Spirit whisper, look at her, listen to her, I love her, so I did and as it turned out we had the best laughs and had so much in common, what a divine appointment I almost missed out on!

    • Shelby, a friend mentioned recently she was minding her own business when it suddenly came to her “Act Like Him” Something so simple but important to remember. Jesus never turned anyone away, he considered even little children to be important. Something we all do well to keep in mind, we can learn so much from others.

  17. I love this, Edie. I am introverted and we have just moved to a new area. My kids are in a new school and I find my pep talks about making new friends is also for myself. I loved the “pep talk for the inner 7th grader” post you did recently. I have reminded myself many times that my “self-consciousness and insecurity leads to self-centered-ness”. Something I had never really considered until you said it. So, your posts are very timely in my life as I navigate my new neighborhood and the kids’ new school. Thank you.

  18. Recently, while on a girls get away with a friend, we ran into a couple from Tennessee (Sullivan County) which is near where I used to live in Johnson City. We struck up a conversation and she made me feel like what I had to say mattered, by asking questions that drew me out. I love people and generally speaking, love to talk, but in new surroundings, around new people, I tend to hang in the background. So glad I made myself speak up as I really enjoyed chatting with this couple. Love your suggestion to be curious. I am a curious person, so I just need to make sure I start asking people questions as a way to start a conversation, even when I’d rather sit back and watch the crowd.

  19. This is perfect! How TRUE- In church on Easter Sunday (last year) a woman spoke to me. Just as I was walking into the church. She was visiting from Texas that morning. Dotti is in her late 70’s- We met after the service. We had an interesting conversation & then we exchanged phone #’s. We have stayed in touch ever since. What an AMAZING life this woman has led. She has given me so much unconditional love, I am absolutely blown away by it. She is certainly an example of taking time for others. I always know when someone is really listening to me or just being polite. I have to ask God to keep me awake & aware. To please relieve me of the bondage of self, so I can be in the moment and listen and really HEAR! I am so grateful that I took the time that day, to visit with her. What a blessing Dotti is to me. And you as well.
    Great post, Edie. Thank you for writing AND listening 🙂
    Big Love & Hugs

  20. Love this post, Edie! You are so right…it takes humility to stop thinking and talking about ourselves and let others talk…and LISTEN to them. This is great advice for all of us…especially ME!

  21. This is a good reminder for me to step out-side my natural demeanor. I am slightly introverted and yet I want to radiate God’s love and glory to those around me. I need to bookmark this post to revisit every couple of week!

  22. Edie, what a beautiful post. Loved it. You have such a way with words. You cause me to dig deep when I just want to stay surfacy sometimes and just go through the motions. You were born to write. You are heading God’s calling on your life!

    You ask if someone took an interest in my life. I had to tell you this. Last August I was re-diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I had it 4 years ago as a 36 year old. I had a double mastectomy and thought I’d finished my battle. I felt a lump in the fall of last year and then our world was crushed (I say “our” because nothing about this cancer has been mine alone, my husband, friends and family have been there every step of the way!). Cancer had returned with a vengeance. I had two lumps in my breasts (well, surrounding my implants), my lymph nodes and three tumors in my liver. To say we were devastated is an understatement. The diagnosis was grim if the chemotherapy didn’t work. This cancer was a different type and aggressive. Word made it around our church, Facebook and by family and friends. I received cards, meals, texts and calls from people I had never met. One person in particular (she was a friend of a friend of my mother in law!!) made it her mission to lift me up in prayer fervently and to encourage me constantly. She lives about 4 hours from me. She mailed me packages and cards WEEKLY. She sent me Mandisa’s album, Jesus Calling, pink scarves, pom poms, jewelry, t-shirts…it just floored me that someone who didn’t even KNOW ME loved me that much. Her encouragement was so reassuring. I wrote her many a thank you notes and even hand made her a Christmas gift but what she did for me can’t ever be paid back. I in turn take the time to invest in others that I never would have before. Her example taught me that. Today, by the GRACE OF GOD, I am cancer free and an absolute miracle. I will never forget the time and effort this godly woman invested in me.

  23. Sound advise Edie. I have even (silently) prayed, during a conversation, to be a better listener. I have always been greatly rewarded (and surprised) by the result.

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