Fresh out of college, living on my own in Chicago, my routine was working, volunteering, and hanging out with friends. We’d check out restaurants featured in “Cheap Eats,” a column in the Chicago Tribune, or go to a neighborhood restaurant. Most of us were new to living in the city and there was lots to discover.
My favorite kind of day – impromptu dinners and weekend brunches at someone’s cramped apartment where everyone contributed something, distractions were limited to street noise or an occasional land line ringing (cell phones weren’t yet in the picture), and we talked for several hours. Conversations ran the gamut – movies, music, concerts, dating life, work life, and world issues. We covered it all, not always agreeing, but definitely listening, talking, and occasionally debating, hoping to swing someone over to our point of view.
At the end of the get together, we said our goodbyes and thank you’s, hugged and left, fully satisfied on many levels: good food, good conversation, and often, much to think about.
Those impromptu get togethers seemed to vanish as lives got busier, kids came along, and a mindset took hold that all had to be perfect – clean house, perfect yard, gourmet meal…
Fast forward to 2020, with sheltering in place during the current pandemic and the unrest that has followed in the wake of yet another senseless killing of a black person, and I am hungering for gatherings and conversations that bring people together and build community, hungering for more knowledge and understanding, and hungering for change that creates a world that is fair and accessible for all, a world that does not leave people behind, a world that recognizes what happens in one community can impact the one 5 miles away and around the globe.
There is much work to be done in the coming months, beginning at home and the communities in which we all live. One small but meaningful step, gather for a meal, with social distancing in place: Invite old friends, new neighbors, the elderly couple down the block, someone you’ve been wanting to get to know better. Share stories, listen, and, yes, discuss the topics in the news with the caveat that you are not there to rehash the headlines, but instead to discuss ideas and solutions that lead to a more welcoming community, a better world.
Check out On Being’s Civil Conversations Project resources, including the “Better Conversations: A Starter Guide.”
Make beauty. Do good.
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