A few weeks ago, a group of students from the campus ministry Cru sat on the benches around the fountain in the middle of campus, holding signs that said, “Ask me anything.” One of those students was Michael Garlich. I was able to talk with Michael about why he and his friends did what they did.
MB: Why were you out there?
MG: To promote authentic and genuine conversation between people. Everyone talks and yells out their own opinion all the time, but there’s a mass decrease in the ability to actually have a conversation with someone you disagree with. That was my main reason for going out there. Yeah, I wanted to share my perspective on things, but ultimately, I wanted to hear what people had to say. I wanted to be able to listen and talk. And we did it in a way so people were able to come up to us and ask us without feeling put off by being randomly approached by someone on the way to class.
MB: What kind of questions did you ask?
MG: Simple ones, like what’s your favorite color? What year are you? What’s your major? Had weird ones like what do you think about right-wing fascism? What would you do in a zombie apocalypse, and what weapon would you choose?
MB: What kind of responses did you get?
MG: I had some basic responses to the basic questions. I had some in-depth responses too. I had a girl come to me and say she needed a guy’s perspective on the relationship she was in. The relationship was kind of damaging. She had been feeling emotionally neglected and needed another person’s perspective on what she should do about it. We got to have a 30-40-minute conversation about what a good, healthy relationship looks like and what a bad relationship looks like. That one was probably my favorite conversation. I got to have good theological conversations, too. I’m Protestant, and I had a Catholic approach me and ask me my opinion on things in the Catholic church and Catholic doctrines. We disagreed on things, but we were able to actually talk about them and have a cool conversation, and I made a new friend.
MB: What was the biggest thing you learned from the experience?
MG: I learned the importance of listening and how valuable and important it is. It’s honestly kind of lost nowadays. Again, everyone talks, but hardly anyone listens. To just be able to listen to peoples’ pain, struggles, opinions, whatever—you get to dive into authenticity with a stranger and create meaning and purpose just by listening to somebody.