The other night I was up late working on some projects and needed some background noise, so I put on a movie; I decided on Phenomenon. It’s inspiring and positive; the scenery is beautiful, the soundtrack is great, the characters are relatable, the story is original and well written.
If I had to describe the film’s overall theme, it would be “how the extraordinariness of life is explored through connectivity.”
Several scenes lend themselves to this theme, but the most insightful one happens near the end. Some community members are in a tavern dismissively discussing the phenomenon surrounding their friend, George. Refusing to engage in gossip, the town doctor gets personal with another guy, telling him he could use George’s relationship approach to connect with his estranged wife. Describing how George fanned the flame of his own romantic relationship, the doctor emphasizes “He bought her chairs.”
George’s girlfriend was once a loner single mom, only coming to town to sell her handmade chairs. Volunteering as her vendor, George actually kept secretly buying all her chairs just so she would keep coming back so he could talk to her. He wasn’t expecting anything from her, just hoping.
The doctor’s point was that everybody has something they throw themselves into in order to express their worth, and that a major key in connecting with them is to invest in those expressions.
The purpose of relationships is not “this-for-that”; it’s not strictly about getting something from someone. Relationships are about exploring the extraordinariness of life embodied in people. To savor the flavor embedded in a person’s story of convictions and commitments, successes and failures, joy and sorrow, disappointments and resilience. Every person is a sweet vintage yielding something extraordinary; relationships allow us to sample that extraordinariness. Sometimes we’re aware of this in ourselves and others; many times we are not. Investing in people, magnifying what matters—“buying their chairs”—connects us to the cellar where their extraordinary cherished treasures are affirmed and appreciated and value is revealed and celebrated.
I first saw this film with a friend. He is a friend because one day fourteen years ago he plopped himself down next to me and started a conversation because, apparently, he saw something extraordinary in me before I did. At that point in my life, I wasn’t very good with relationships or didn’t have many friends. His friendship has greatly helped me more carefully perceive the extraordinariness of God’s value on myself and the human race around me, showing me how a little care goes a long way in connecting and facilitating the healing we all need.
Consider “buying the chairs” of someone near your sphere—a coworker, church member, neighbor, even a stranger. A bit of bold, but genuine and undemanding curiosity could be the difference between you, someone, and something extraordinary. Extraordinary value is already here in each of us; we are able to encounter, experience, explore, and enjoy this phenomenon of relationships if we have the courage to connect and participate.