goldentempleWe recently befriended a kind and gregarious man who lives in our city and owns a restaurant/CD/movie/grocery store.

Earlier this week, we ate in his restaurant for the first time. It won’t be the last. It was the most delicious Indian food we’ve ever tasted. We also bought a Bollywood movie he recommended. Before we left, I asked him his name. He said it’s Singh and he’s a Sikh from Punjab, India. He said God named him.

That intrigued me.

Today, we returned to purchase a bunch of Indian spices. That’s when I asked him about his religion. He beamed and excitedly moved from one pile to another of CDs and DVDs, playing excerpts for us, translating now and then. He showed us his holy books, and he gave us a book called Pearls of Sikhism published by the Sikh Missionary Center. He said I should learn Punjabi so that I could read his holy book.

Before we left today (laden with spices and the book), he invited us to visit his Sikh temple. We may take him up on it, even though we’ll likely not understand much of what’s spoken during the service. It’s just incredibly fulfilling to learn about other people, and what they believe.

The late Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People has kept me in good stead over the years, especially Habit 5, which is:

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

“Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.”

I’ve discovered the best way to build bridges and forge friendships is to begin with questions, not statements. Asking and listening is a wonderful way to demonstrate compassion and respect — especially when encountering people from different religious traditions.

That’s the mission of The Only Love Project.