Journalism students memorize the following poem from Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephant’s Childto help them remember the best way to gather information:
I keep six honest serving-men.
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and
When and How and Where and Who.
Everyone we meet has a story to share, and the right questions — not nosy ones, but caring ones — can help us connect with others.
Since I’m writing a column for Christian Odyssey, you may want to ask me the same questions. My answers in reverse order would be:
“Who are you?” For almost 40 years I have been a pastor’s wife. I’m also a mother, grandmother, friend, former teacher, former newspaper columnist, humorist, speaker, thinker, writer and Christian.
“Where do you come from?” Born in the foothills of the Ozarks, I was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, met my husband at college in Texas, have lived in Florida, Kentucky, Washington, and Michigan, and am presently living in San Jose.
“How do you come up with topics to write about?” Occasionally I’ll read or hear something that triggers a thought, but most of my ideas come from everyday life situations. Readers supply great information, too, by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When did you start writing?” It seems like I’ve been writing forever, but the first article I sold was in 1975.
“Why do you write?” My goal is to show God’s hand and humor in everyday life.
“What do you hope to accomplish?” My hope is for people to think, share thoughts, and take their Christian calling, but not themselves, too seriously.
Journalists have long known that the secret of getting a good story hinges on asking questions. In a way, we are all journalists. Everyone we meet has a story to share, and the right questions — not nosy ones, but caring ones — can help us connect with others.
Some nosy questions you might want to avoid would be: How much do you weigh? How old are you? What did you pay for that car? What is your original hair color? Is that a bird’s nest or a toupee on your head?
Some caring questions might be: What brings you to our fair city? Would you like to be part of our Bible study group? How did that make you feel? What are your thoughts? Why don’t you list your options with the pros and cons?
Jesus used questions to expand others’ understanding. He often asked his disciples, “What do you think?” Being Jesus, he knew what they thought, but he wanted them to use their minds. Why did he ask, “Who do people say I am?” in Matthew 16? Was it so they would think about misguided ideas some might have about him? And when he followed with, “Who do you think I am?” was it so they would solidify their faith?
Those last two questions are still being debated today. I’m just thinking out loud here…but as Christians, I hope we know the difference between who people say Jesus is and who he really is.
So here I am — a journalist full of questions, seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus, hoping to connect with others, claiming God has a sense of humor, writing about everyday life, and praying God blesses our journey as we think out loud together!
Author: Barbara Dahlgren