Full of Beans and $20

Full of Beans

“That guy is full of beans!”

I noticed the man as I took the stage for my presentation of Truth be Told…from a Guy Who Makes Stuff Up. He sat in a pew all to himself three rows from the front.

Being in theater and in the field of communication, I’ve learned to home in on body language and this man was demonstrating the classic closed position. Body angled away—if he could have found a way to sit sideways in the pew he would have. The few stolen glances I had from him were what I would classify as scowls.

For the most part, church audiences have been pretty safe for me. The audiences are generally polite and welcoming. Nothing like what I experienced years ago when doing the school assembly circuit and performing for a gymnasium full of hostile junior high schoolers. Those audiences you had to win over, and if you didn’t, they could eat you alive. I have often said performing in school assemblies was like being fed to the lions. This gentleman, though a senior citizen, was displaying the same “prove it to me” attitude that I experienced in those junior high schools. I registered it in my brain and moved on. I had an audience to play to and I wasn’t going to let one man’s negativity keep me from doing my job. I would ignore him. The show must go on!

Ignore him I did, and aside from this man, felt I had a good connection with the rest of my audience.

After the service I ventured into the fellowship hall for refreshments. As I headed for the table the man approached me with his hand outstretched.

“I have to tell you that when you started your presentation I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t think you were going to be doing the entire service. I decided shortly after you started that ‘That guy is full of beans!’ I almost walked out. But then the more I listened I got pulled in to your story. Then I realized I was being an #$%^&*~!” That was really good what you did.”

Rarely do I get such honest feedback from an audience member. I don’t think an audience member has ever said I was “full of beans” to my face before (and I am pretty sure he only said “beans” because he didn’t want to say another more common word associated with that phrase).   And yet he didn’t hold back on his language when describing himself with an expletive. I am sure he is voicing what many others have thought over the years but never would have expressed to my face.

And yet, in talking to him he affirmed that it was in connecting with my story that his defenses went down. Whether it was some of the humor that he identified with or an episode from my life that mirrored his, I don’t know. But somewhere in the course of hearing my story he connected—he began to listen and engage and in the end he felt a bond with me, because of my story.

Many places receive a freewill offering for my ministry after the performance. As my visit with the gentleman came to a close he said: “I’m not a rich man, don’t have much, but I want you to have this.” He pressed a $20 bill into my hand.

What a great reminder of the power of story. Each of us has a story to tell. May we learn to share it knowing that in the sharing there is great power to connect, challenge and encourage others.

As one of my friends said to me: “Full of beans and $20, not bad!”

So what’s your story?

Move Over George Clooney!

After a long flight I retrieved my rental car and was going through the final checkout before leaving the lot, when the I had the most unusual conversation:

Attendant: So are you here to hire or fire?

Me: Why would you ask me that?

Attendant: You look like you are pretty high up on the corporate ladder.

Me: Sorry, I am just an actor.

Attendant: Well… then… (laughter)

george-clooney-up-in-the-airImmediately I am recalling the movie Up In The Air with George Clooney.   In the movie, Clooney’s character traveled as the hatchet man for a corporation. He fired people for a living. In addition to his good looks, he dressed and played the part of the corporate executive. If I reminded her of George Clooney… well, I am flattered.

I tried to piece together what would make her jump to this assumption about my being a corporate type.  I am a pretty casual dresser. When I travel I rarely check a bag and so if I need a sport coat and a collared shirt, mainly for performance costume, I often wear it rather than pack it. Such was the case on this day. I have the silver hair thing going for me… some say it gives me the “distinguished look” (although I think they are just being polite and “distinguished” sounds better than “old”).  And she must have totally ignored that I had rented a Nissan Versa… hardly the vehicle of choice for the corporate elite.

It was a jarring reminder to me of how communication is so much more than words. We are constantly sending out messages—whether we want to or not—by how we look, what we wear and with our body language.  As an actor I have to be a student of this; it comes into play for the characters I portray on stage.  Actors will tell you that it is often not until they get into full costume and makeup, that they fully become the character.  How we see ourselves makes a difference in how we communicate.

Current trends in culture want us to believe that it doesn’t matter what you wear or how you look.  Just be yourself. On a certain level I agree, but there is no getting around the fact that we are judging people all the time based on appearances.  You can argue that it is not fair… and you are right!  But it doesn’t change the reality that we all do it.  I do it, you do it. We make assumptions based on surface stuff.

Years ago I toured with a performing ministry.  One of the many rules was that we were not allowed to wear blue jeans—couldn’t even have them in our suitcase. This was in the 1970s. We were mostly younger people traveling in a van with California license plates.  To the world at large during the 70s that meant one thing—hippies! Banning blue jeans, the ministry felt, was one way we could help to dispel that image. The rationale for this rule was summed up in this philosophical statement: If what I am wearing will stop you from listening to me, then I will change what I am wearing.

ChuckasGeorgeI hated the ‘no blue jeans’ rule.  But I have to admit, it makes a good point.  Sort of reminds me of something the apostle Paul said:  “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  1 Corinthians 9: 22 (NIV)

You could argue a variety of styles of dress using this as a guideline.  To the performer/speaker that translates into “know your audience.”  For some that may mean a suit and tie and to others it may mean a tank top and tattoos.

In the meantime, somebody call central casting and move over George Clooney.  I think I can play this corporate type!

Do you consider how others will perceive you when you select your wardrobe for the day?

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