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Questions matter

I’ve heard it said, and said myself, that your faith isn’t really yours until you question it. Before that it’s just something you’ve been taught by your parents — like Santa Claus.

Questions are how you know your child is growing. “Mama,” “Dada,” “truck,” “blue truck,” and “mine!” give way to “Why is the sky blue?” or in our case, “How do they make orange juice?” I think that one was sparked by the back of a cereal box. It was quite the conversation to have with a 2-year-old.

Questions are how we know we understand each other. I can sit here secure in the knowledge that you wanted three french fries, or I can ask and find out you said you wanted “free” ones. A simplistic example, I know, but sometimes it turns into something that matters.

Every once in a while, it’s the questions you forget to ask that matter. You think you know something — like what town a young lady is from — so it never occurs to you to ask. And then you find out you’re wrong after you’ve printed it in the paper. Guess what, next time you ask.

Yesterday, I wrote the Union County Board of Supervisors had questions about the changes to the orders for the new Department of Human Services building. In the grand scheme of things, they weren’t really big changes. But it struck me that the supervisors took time to question the details and then find out the answers. Sometimes it seems that a lot of what they do is approve the work done by the county employees. They tend to trust their people, but they are paying attention. As President Ronald Reagan would have said, “Trust, but verify.”

How can you find out someone’s plans and dreams without asking questions? Granted, there are those people who will talk your ear off about their grand plans, but there are many more who stay quiet. They don’t want to sound silly or make people think they can’t be serious. It’s OK to talk about dreams that may never come true. It helps us know what’s important to each other.

I may never get to go to Paris, but my dreams of it are why I keep ordering a Monte Cristo. Even though I’ve found time after time that it will be too much grease for me, it still reminds me of making croque monsieurs in French class in high school.

Questions are how I find out your story. Sometimes I can ask one question, and it all just rolls from there. Those are the best interviews. I find out things I would never have thought to ask such as: how a husband supported his wife through her cancer by creating a triathlon — see the upcoming Relay for Life tab for that story — or about a banana tree the Creston firefighters grew. Really, who would have thought of that as a question?

Sometimes I have to ask a bunch of small questions. I know you’ve got a story; everyone does. I just need to keep poking at you until it spills out. Teenage boys aren’t always the most forthcoming with details — until one of them starts talking about the bones they’ve broken and everybody chimes in. Those articles can be a bit like a puzzle. I have to keep going back and finding the pieces that fit together. They take longer to write but are worth it in the end.

So I’m going to keep asking questions, even in the face of the occasional “No” or the look that says it’s none of my business. More often than not, your answers are fascinating.


What matters to you?

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