Messages from Young Adults

“I’m awesome!”

I joined Greenpeace today. Let me back up.

Lunch time found me traipsing down shady downtown streets with my co-worker in pursuit of a somewhat healthy lunch. The heat rose from the sidewalk and seemed to hover at waist height. We took our time, chatting about projects and upcoming vacations. In the near distance, I saw two young women in matching blue t-shirts. My first impulse was to cross the street to the other side to avoid confrontation. But I was with my colleague and she didn’t seem to be holding back a “fight of flight” impulse. So, I continued on. As soon as we came into the girls’ focus, the one in front stepped out of the shade and waved at us.

“Hey! How are you? Come talk to me – I’m awesome!”

No, this wasn’t a typical scraggly hipster-type asking me if I’d registered to vote while weakly holding out a tattered clipboard. This girl looked like she was on her way to track practice – around the perfume counters at Saks Fifth Avenue. Her hair was in a cute ponytail on top of her head and mascara perfectly accentuated each and every eyelash. Her friend’s stylish fedora framed her large smile and cast a shadow on the giant diamond studs sparkling on her earlobes. As we came closer, they sensed that we were slowing down and they moved in for the kill. How does one turn down the invitation to talk to the “popular girl” when she says, “I’m awesome…and I want to talk to you!”??

Within five seconds, it was clear that they were on a mission to get us signed up as card-carrying Greenpeace members. Of course, I’d heard of the organization, so I really didn’t need the speech. But Girl #1 kept right on going. Upon learning that my co-worker  was already a member, she gave her a high five and proceeded to tell us what Greenpeace was doing about the massive oil spill in the Gulf. There was nowhere to go and we didn’t want to seem rude. So, we listened. And, you know what? They were actually interesting to listen to. Personable, upbeat, engaging, humorous…they reeled us in. Before I knew it, I was agreeing to send Greenpeace $15 a month and signing on a dotted line. Afterwards, Girl #2 gave me a hug, saying that all new members got one (Girl #1 gave my co-worker a hug too since, apparently, old members get them as well). We walked away and waved at them like they were old friends. As we continued on to lunch, I could feel the conflict beginning to boil inside. How had I allowed myself to sign up for something like that – on the spot? How had they done it?

Then, naturally, my thoughts changed to how the work that the girls were doing was vastly different, yet the same, as the work that we, as witnesses of the gospel, should be doing. Was it possible, I thought, for a couple of church-going youth to stand on a street corner and engage passers-by in the same way that these two young ladies had? Seemingly, four key factors made their pitch successful:

Approachability: Even before we were within ear shot, we were able to read the body language of the Greenpeace Girls. They appeared to be having a light-hearted conversation and their postures were relaxed and fluid. They didn’t seem rigid, frightened, or prepared to dart into the bushes at a moment’s notice. They had the air of two friends chatting in the commons after class. Unassuming and “normal”, they didn’t attract unnecessary attention (besides the giant “Greenpeace” emblazoned on their shirts).

Confidence: I’ll repeat Girl #1’s line, as it keeps ringing in my head. “Come talk to me – I’m awesome!” Now, I don’t know if, exasperated after a long morning of rejection, she had just thrown caution to the wind and was now blurting anything that came to mind. Whatever the case, she exuded confidence. Her invitation told us that she was comfortable being out in the Texas heat and she was comfortable about her message. She had something to share and if we wanted to listen to it, great. If not, she was secure enough to know that someone else would walk up who would want to hear it. The line was so unusual that it caught me off guard…and made me want to hear how she would proceed. As they talked to us about Greenpeace’s mission and work, they looked us straight in the eye and smiled. It was as if we were having a conversation…and I didn’t even know them. I found myself listening intently, and instead of looking for an escape, I just wanted to hear them out.

Friendliness: The high-fives, the hugs, the little jokes and banter between the girls…all that made the entire exchange a friendly and upbeat one. There was no guilt-tripping, passive aggressiveness, or index finger wagging in admonition. As soon as Girl #1 found out that my colleague was Canadian, she grasped a hold of this detail and didn’t let go. She made an immediate connection with her, listing friends that she had in Vancouver (my co-worker’s hometown) and extolling the virtues of our Northern Neighbors. We were completely at ease now. I could have walked away, saying “No thanks,” but instead, I thought, “Why not?”

Conviction: Girl #1 gave us her best “sincere look”, complete with one arched eyebrow. “Listen,” she confided in us, “Greenpeace doesn’t pay me enough to stand out here in this heat. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t really believe in the organization and the work they’re doing!” Now, I’m sure all the volunteers or staff are trained in their pitches, so I took this in stride. However, she seemed so sincere as she spoke – we could feel her genuine passion radiating through her words. As she continued, I could tell that she knew her stuff. I was impressed as she rattled off numbers and statistics and told of her experience protesting in front of the capitol building. The tempo of her words increased and the pitch in her voice elevated as she explained, from the heart, about how “the people” can fight corporations that do things to hurt the environment. When she was finished, I almost believed that my one little signature and 15 bucks a month could actually do something. Her conviction was contagious.

All things considered, I could just be the biggest sucker on the planet. That’s not the point. The point here is that this experience made me think about our work as Christians. When we witness – on a street corner, in a dorm room, or in the hallways at work – are we as effective as the Greenpeace Girls? In the way that we deliver the gospel, are we approachable, disarming, and open or do we repel people? Are we confident of our purpose and our calling or are we “still trying to figure that one out”? Do we open up our hearts and our arms in genuine friendship, or are we lurking about with a thinly veiled agenda? Do our actions stem from a deep-rooted conviction in our beliefs (intelligently reasoned, I might add), or do we just do things “because we’ve been told”?

While I still might have a hard time thinking of myself standing on a sidewalk and engaging people with the story of Christ the way these young ladies gushed about Greenpeace, I certainly think that we have a lot to learn from others in this department. May the day come quickly when we can draw people in with a starting line like, “Hey! Glad to meet you! Come talk to me – Jesus is awesome!”


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Comments

  • Oluwakemi (Author) said:

    1. i have never heard of Greenpeace before
    2. i think you are awesome ‘cuz you have an awesome God
    3. i am starting to believe that my/our lack of enthusiasm must stem from either our selfishness (got to keep this light to myself), or our inability to realize what we really have.

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