I recently visited my parents in Florida for a few days. It was nice to get a break from the cold New England winter, but even better was the chance to have great conversations. I often wonder how I became a journalist; now I know the answer.
When I was very young, the evening paper was delivered to our home each night. We knew the paperboy; he was a neighbor. My dad and I would sit in the living room pouring through the stories, and this became the basis for discussions about the world.
My parents were not worldly, they had graduated high school, and both worked hard. My dad a mechanic who worked his way up the ladder. My mom a waitress when I was young, and eventually worked in an office. She did, I learned later in life, campaign for John F. Kennedy. They understood the importance of world and national events and often brought those discussions to the dinner table.
I can remember talking about Jimmy Carter running for President. The conversation focused on his policies and plans, and the differences between the Democrat and Republican Gerald Ford. They never told me who I should support, but encouraged me to ask a lot of questions. I would find many answers in the evening paper.
We sat down to dinner most nights, and talk about everything from school work to world affairs. I expressed particular interest in the 1970’s energy crisis. When I suggested to my parents a few ideas, rather than brush me aside, they encouraged me to write to our U.S. Senator. Without fear, I drafted the letter and waited. Much to our surprise that Senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, did send a response. It is a letter I have to this day. He thanked me for the thoughts, and also encouraged me to stay involved.
Ted Talks On Meaningful Conversations
During this recent visit, there was a lot of discussion about President Trump. They expressed concern for the younger generations. We talked about immigration and the impact to Florida and other parts of the nation. I explained to them the college course I taught after election day when I showed the students newspaper headlines from across the nation. The students were surprised to see the different reactions from around the country. There was no arguing about policy or politics, just free and open discussion.
We talked about the President using Twitter. They do not understand why a President would communicate in that format. I brought up the idea that President Trump may want to speak directly to the American people and not have his message filtered. It was a concept they had not considered. There were no cell phones out, or text messages, actual words were exchanged.
Those conversations are the basis of my curiosity in life. I was taught to ask questions and listen to the answers are keys to a good conversation. It is time to start talking again. Future generations need to learn how to express themselves in more than 140 characters.
The exchange of ideas and beliefs is vital to the American culture. You do not have to agree with a person to listen, you may even learn something new.
Many believe the reliance on social media to communicate has come at a cost. The Wall Street Journal debated the issue. Some experts argue social media allows a person to remain in contact with others, and it will enhance rather than replace a relationship. Others say the reliance on social media limits face-to-face contact and that hurts our emotional health. Statements made on social media consist of only words, and the lack of non-verbal communication can lead to misinterpretation of their meaning.
I think the time has come to renew the call for conversations. I know sitting down together as a family is difficult when everyone is running in a different direction, but try it just one night a week. For some ideas on how to start, or what to say, check out the Family Dinner Project.
This advice is not just for families with small children, sit down as adults when you can. Ask questions, learn things from one another.
It was these conversations that sparked my curiosity about life. I am not afraid to ask questions, speak up, or change my mind about an issue. Thank you, Mom and Dad.