Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In Support of "Small Talk"

I have been thinking lately about times when our family had celebratory meals together.  At the end of the meal, we were content and delightfully relaxed.  We often just sat around and told/retold our favorite stories and no one was checking their watches. The retelling always embellished the actual story a bit and often generated a little uninvited editing. If there were guests, they added their stories to the mix.  As I remember it, that is how our friends became extended family.

It never occurred to me that slowing down to exchange small talk was one of the best parts of the meal. The stories often revealed the uniqueness of each person at table.  We glimpsed their passions and discovered what made them laugh or cry. After those exchanges, we knew better how to delight or tread lightly when we met them again.

Recently I heard a young man comment on how he decided to slow his thinking down whenever he met a stranger.  He began by noticing the thoughts he was having about the stranger he noticed on the bus.  After he identified his uneasiness, he chose to sit near the person and slowly begin some small talk. He was shocked at how easily the stranger responded. That choice began to set in motion a new pattern of connecting with those around him.  After about seven weeks, it became easier and easier to let small talk be the bridge that connected him to a wide range of unfamiliar people. The gift for him was learning interesting and tender things about the lives of people around him.

May this joyous Easter time open up spaces for us to slow down, sit down and savor stories that connect us.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

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