The Fellowship’s Social Media Specialist, Jonathan Goldthwaite, tells us about a negative reaction he got when answering the simple question, “What do you do?” – and a positive reaction to the same question that reassured him he’s on the right track.
One of the first times I told someone that I work for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, that person joked, “That’s one you have to practice in the mirror a few times!”
Over time, I’ve created a short and sweet phrase to describe the work of The Fellowship when it comes up: “We help poor people in Israel and struggling Jewish communities around the world.” My co-workers and I often joke about the different ways we introduce our job to others, not because we are ashamed of our organization and its mission, but because it’s difficult to explain briefly, and there’s always the possibility of opposition and judgment at inopportune moments.
This was one of those inopportune moments.
That Gut Feeling
I had a date after work. Usually, I am excited about these encounters, but I just had an unsettled sense in my soul about this one.
I shared this feeling with some coworkers. One perky team member told me to listen to my gut and cancel. Another thought it would be fine and encouraged me to go. Another, a loving, curmudgeonly dad-type, said, “Oh, just do it. It’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
How I wish I had heeded my perky coworker’s advice.
“How Do You Feel About that?”
I showed up. Met the girl. We sat down. So far, so okay.
We started to engage in small talk. “Where are you from? Have any siblings? How long have you been in the city? Doing anything this weekend?” Then the inevitable question came up: “Where do you work?” I can handle this, I thought. I recited my pre-planned spiel.
Before I could even finish the phrase “struggling Jewish communities,” she blurted out, “But there are poor Muslims, too!”
Unsure of how that statement related to anything I said, I started to describe further the work of The Fellowship. I explained to her how we help Israelis of all races and religions, using the example of our soup kitchens, which gladly feed anyone who comes in. I mentioned some of our other programs in Israel that help minorities, and then described our work in the former Soviet Union, like sponsoring orphanages and providing aid to Holocaust survivors. She nodded along, asking odd, detailed questions, like she didn’t believe a word I said.
“We also help Jews move to Israel,” I said.
“How do you feel about that!?” shot out of her mouth.
“Good,” I said, not missing a beat. “We help them find housing, and give them language classes and job training.”
The look on her face told me she wanted to be offended, but didn’t know why.
We dropped it, and moved on through a sub-par to mildly irritating meeting of two strangers looking for love.
Yet Another Surprise
Later, I reflected on this encounter. What I still find surprising is how the simple idea of helping Jewish people in need raised so much emotion in her, and why she assumed if we help one group of people it meant we hated another group. People don’t accuse orphanages of hating old people, after all.
I tried my best to move on and let this negative experience pass, when I found myself having to explain what I do to yet another stranger. This was not a date, but a work-related call. I was asked what I “do”, so I went through my elevator spiel about The Fellowship and how we help Israel and the Jewish people. Before ending the phone call, the lady I was speaking with made a point of adding, “I just wanted to say how great it is you’re working with outreach to the Jewish people and bringing them home to Israel. I just think that’s so amazing.”
I could feel the warmth and gratitude in her voice, like she was thanking me personally. The presence of God was tangible as she spoke, as if her excitement was His excitement.
It’s funny how helping Israel and the Jewish people garners two such drastically different reactions, in one week even. I’ve always found that when I experience a negative or critical voice in my life, there is another, constructive and positive voice just around the corner. It’s a matter of which one I listen to.
For something as important as dating and finding a potential spouse, common values are important. If I can’t talk about my job without being snapped at, that’s not someone I am meant to be with. Better to find that out now rather than later!Tags: Inspiration