I have never mastered the art of small talk, and I likely never will. As a lifelong introvert, the concept of forcing chatter and filling awkward silences terrifies me. The copious amounts of possible things I could say whiz through my brain and oftentimes leave me awkwardly stumbling through social interactions. Jake Faulk does not have this ailment. I believe he could strike up and hold a conversation with absolutely any human being on the face of this planet. If there is one thing that can be guaranteed about Jake, it’s that he is never at a loss for words.

            On our first night here in Queenstown, Jake and I ventured over to Macpac right before the store closed for the evening. Jake’s consistent shivers over the past few days had left him with the realization he needed a coat, and I was searching for a new pair of gloves. After making our selections, Jake and I headed towards the register, where we met an employee named Ollie who likely wasn’t much older than either of us. If I had come into the store alone, I would have politely paid for my items and promptly walked out the door. However, Jake predictably decided to tell Ollie who we were, how long we had been in New Zealand for, and what our plans were for our time in Queenstown. After revealing to Ollie that our group had decided to choose summiting Roy’s Peak over making the journey to Milford Sound, we were met with a flurry of laughter from every employee working in the Macpac store. Ollie was born and raised in Queenstown, and he proceeded to give us the inside scoop. He described Roy’s Peak as a tourist hotspot that was ultimately forgettable in comparison to the majesty of Milford Sound. Ollie’s persuasive description and breathtaking pictures led to a singular GroupMe message that sparked a movement. Within an hour, it was clear that Milford Sound had proven itself superior to Roy’s Peak in popularity amongst our group.

            There have been a few moments in my life where it has felt as if a heavenly experience splashed down and met me in my earthly state. One of these instances occurred when I found myself worshipping Jesus while surrounded by thousands of college students in Atlanta. I also believe I had one of these encounters today at Milford Sound. I won’t attempt to eloquently depict the serene imagery that graced my eyes; some natural wonders are simply better left as indescribable. However, I will end with a few words of gratitude in response to what I was able to witness. Thank you, God, for your incredible ability to create and sustain. Thank you, Lord, for creating me with greater intricacy and intimacy than that with which you formed the towering mountains. Thank you, Jake, for being unafraid to initiate a conversation that changed the course of our entire trip. Finally, thank you, small talk, for being a gorgeous bridge between strangers. Perhaps you aren’t as troublesome as I make you out to be.