September and October are months of festivals where I live, and I happened to attend a festive activity in the area a few days ago. It was one of those near-perfect days for indoor and outdoor activities. The temperature didn’t get above 80 degrees, the sun was shining and the skies were bright blue with a touch of white puffy clouds. I went with new found friends and was almost giddy to have connected with these particular friends so quickly. I enjoyed good company and fun activities all afternoon.
After enjoying the food and craft booths, we went inside to hear a scheduled lecture. I always like to learn more about most topics, and the presenter was well versed. As we settled in, the presenter – in a very engaging manner – introduced the topic and began the presentation about the history of the faith-based community that sponsored the festival and the meaning of all the symbols that surrounded us. He also gave us an enlightening review of some of the community’s practices.
In an attempt to relate the presentation to current events and assign meaning to the event, he mentioned the NFL players kneeling during the playing of the country’s national anthem. His opinion was that those who kneeled during the playing of the national anthem were protesting the flag. The moment he indicated that, my receptiveness to his presentation automatically shut down. Everything he said after was background noise because my interpretation of kneeling – and perhaps the meaning of their kneeling – was the opposite of his view point.
You see, getting down on one knee is in many ways a sign of reverence and respect in the faith tradition in which I was reared. I still can see and hear the old deacons during devotion. I still can see two specific deacons – my uncle and his good friend – facing the congregation and leading devotion from the table below the alter – or pulpit, as we referred to it then. In that tradition, someone would lead the congregation in “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah,” call and response style. At the end of the rendition, mothers in the congregation would be rocking side-to-side, singing, “Lord have mercy.” Then the other deacon would get up, turn and face the alter, get down on one knee and begin a fervent prayer of supplication and petition. I don’t know what the NFL players intended by getting down on one knee, I just know what it symbolizes to me.
Getting back to the presentation…
Even though it took me some time to refocus on the presenter’s topic and the information that was being conveyed – I lost about 15 minutes of his hour-long presentation – I was able to gather some information and re-learned a few important lessons:
LESSON 1: As a hearer—focus on information that is being imparted to you and try to set aside those opinions of the presenter that may not be an integral part of the presentation.
LESSON 2: As a presenter—convey the information and stay away from putting your opinions in the information, unless the purpose of the presentation is for you to convey your opinion.
LESSION 3: We all are human with different backgrounds, interpretations and opinions and sometimes we allow them to overshadow what we say or what we hear.