Monday, April 03, 2006

Alternatives to “What did you do this weekend?”

It’s Monday morning, which means that my coworkers and I go through our usual informal ritual of asking each other, “So what did you do this weekend?” Kind of like folks checking in at the beginning of a small group. This particular weekend was rather full. Friday night Ellen and I went out for a dinner-and-a-movie date for the first time in two months (yes, since before Valentine’s Day!). We tried out a local cafe that had great bread, and we were late to the theatre so instead of seeing Syriana as we had planned, we caught Nanny McPhee, a surprisingly delightful family/romantic comedy starring Emma Thompson and Colin Firth.

Then Saturday morning we went to Elijah’s two-and-under playgroup at Gigi’s Playhouse Too, and then that afternoon went to church early to rehearse because Ellen and I were leading worship. (Our church meets on Saturday evenings.) After the service we had dinner with a church dinner group, which went until about ten, when someone remembered Daylight Saving Time, instantly making it an even later night than we had thought. And on Sunday we had another dinner group, this one with three other families with children with Down syndrome. It was our first gathering, and great fun was had by kids and adults alike. Except when we were taking pictures of the kids, Elijah thwocked Abby in the face, and she started to cry, which set off Matthew . . . anyway, Josiah and Elijah both fell asleep on the way home, earlier than usual bedtimes, which meant that Ellen and I could watch the DVD of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was okay but not as good as the book nor movies two and three.

As I recount all this, it seems that having a packed, busy weekend schedule is something of a badge of honor. We feel better about having lots of stuff to say when asked, “What did you do this weekend?” Of course, this Monday morning recapitulation just reaffirms our frenetic busyness. Now I’m wondering if there are alternative questions that wouldn’t reinforce this emphasis on doing.

I can’t remember where I read this now, but I came across something about how people in some area of the country, perhaps Colorado or somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, rarely ask, “What did you do this weekend?” For them, the usual question instead is “So where did you go this weekend?” They live in a region where the cultural norm is that everybody goes off to a mountain or park to ski or hike or climb. There’s so much to explore that it’s assumed that everybody gets out of town. Of course, this is still a variation on the doing question, but I like the emphasis on physical geography. It’s probably much more interesting a question for that context – around here, the answer would be, “Let’s see. Friday we went to Naperville. Saturday we went to Plainfield, West Chicago and Winfield. Sunday we went to Woodridge. Wahoo!”

More interesting questions for our suburban context might be:

· “What did you think about this weekend?”
· “What communities were you a part of this weekend?”
· “What relationships did you cultivate this weekend?”
· “What did you read this weekend?”
· “What did you observe about your kids/friends/etc. this weekend?”
· “What was spiritually significant about your weekend?”
· “What was most restful about your weekend?”
· “How did you experience sabbath this weekend?”

If we asked each other these kinds of questions on Monday mornings, our answers would be quite different. I might realize that the most important thing about my weekend was the two-hour nap I took Sunday afternoon. Or that my highlight was when Josiah, after worship, on his own initiative and all by himself, moved the piano bench across the sanctuary to where it was supposed to go and said, “I’m a good helper.” Maybe I’ll try to phrase my Monday morning check-in questions in such a way that allow for the answers to be less about doing and more about being, reflecting, connecting and resting.


Craver Vii said...

My comment is not exclusive to your latest entry. I just want to say that I generally enjoy reading and thinking about what you've written.
Right now, I don't expect to have much to say about the weekend or WarMart or whatever...maybe later. But I find it stimulating to just park there a while and ponder.
By the way, that's a wonderful family photo!

Tonya said...

Hey Al! I linked to you through Janell Paris (we taught together for a year at Bethel, before I became a stay home mom). Good to find you! I get updates from your mom through my mom every once in awhile.

Good thoughts here, I'll be back! But while I'm thinking about it - my badge of honor (for good or pride) is to respond to "What did you do this weekend?" with the answer, "Nothing. It was just awesome." The pride part comes in when I walk away hoping my response gets the person thinking!

(from Bloomington Cov.)

Tonya said...

Oh, by the way, that's a real response. We have a lot of down-time weekends and that's a good thing.