June 1, 2016

A Strike!

I found it easy to exchange pleasantries with a complete stranger.

Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste

My husband recently took me on a date, to a bowling alley! I heard myself agreeing to go, even though I thought the venue unconventional. Until then, I had never been to a bowling alley; I was clueless. We teamed up with my daughter and son-in-law, who were the “pros” in this foursome.

I was amused at being fitted with special shoes, and fazed at obtaining the right ball. Who knew those balls were so heavy? Our lane offered a variety, so I began sizing them when a voice interrupted, “Excuse me, ma’am; this ball is my personal bowling ball.”

With my hand poised over the ball in question I looked into the face of a pleasant-looking older gentleman. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I replied. “I had no idea.” My selection completed, I looked over and realized that the gentleman was assigned to the neighboring lane. So I ventured over to say hello.

As I approached, he assumed a defensive posture (hands raised, palms forward). Oh, no! Does he think I’m coming to confront him? I wondered.

“Hi,” I said, smiling, “I didn’t know that was your personal ball. This is my first time setting foot in a bowling alley, so I have no clue about what I’m doing. But I intend to enjoy myself.”

At these words he relaxed, nodded, and smiled.

Several times during the evening we exchanged smiles and nods. On my very first strike I heard him say, “Nice job!” He, however, was definitely a seasoned bowler. At the end of the evening I went over to say goodbye, waiting while he executed his shot (another strike!).

“What’s the secret in that special ball?” I asked, complimenting him while gesturing to his score, which showcased a number of strikes.

He laughed and responded that for a first-timer I had done very well. “Did you enjoy the evening?” he asked. “Isn’t bowling fun?” I agreed. We exchanged a few more pleasantries and said good night.

“Well,” I remarked to my daughter, “there goes my new friend.” Shaking her head, she said to her husband, “Mom makes friends everywhere she goes. She could get a stone to respond.”

Had she asked how I do that, my response would have been “Easy: just don’t treat a stone like a stone.” In other words, treat others better than themselves, better than you believe them to be.

Then it struck me: even though we’ve been bombarded during this political season with enough vitriol and ugliness for us to say “Enough, already!” I found it easy to exchange pleasantries with a complete stranger in a most unlikely place, thus reinforcing my belief that all is not lost. Most of us respond favorably to gestures of friendship. It’s imperative that we try.

As for the date, I had a great time; we all did. I think we’ll go bowling again.

Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste is editorial assessment coordinator for Adventist Review. She’s the one who authorizes a check when your manuscript is published.