The Unexpected Conversation


                        by Neal Lemery

(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 3/10/2022

One of the often uncelebrated benefits of living in a small town are the seemingly random and unplanned conversations that occur at the grocery store or the post office. 

A recent encounter at the post office turned into a deep and motivating conversation about how we help others by offering words of motivation and guidance. We shared the thought that just plain “paying attention” talk with someone who is struggling is sometimes life changing. 

“It is just as simple as a few kind words, and some gentle expectation that someone can better themselves,” my friend said. 

Small town life allows us to have these deep conversations, often with people we haven’t been connected to. That post office sidewalk conversation allowed both of us to share commonalities, to be better friends.

“I don’t have time for this?” I can say to myself. But, isn’t a small contribution to some social peace, to a person’s wellbeing worth a few minutes of my time? Checking off my “to do” list really isn’t all that important. Maybe the list needs a line item for “care for others today”. 

What is our true work? Isn’t it nurturing the connections, weaving the fabric of community, the offering of support and comfort? I’m often overwhelmed by the rips and tears in the social cloth, the diseases of loneliness, despair, indifference, and depression. We often see the symptoms, yet often don’t focus on working on the cures. The remedies, the prescriptions for civil betterment are all around us, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to access those and apply them to the maladies that are right in front of our faces.

Time, concern, relationship, and empathy are all in our first aid kits. We can be listeners and cheerleaders. Our life experiences have given us the knowledge and the tools to help others. We often forget what we know and what we can do to bind up the wounds of others, and to bring them into the heart of the community.

I can make time for these side conversations, the casual encounters. Those moments are often the treasures of the day, the gold in my life. If I don’t make the time to stop and chat, I’m cheating myself. I’m missing out on what could be a life changing encounter, or experiencing the germination of profound ideas. Isn’t that worth ten minutes of my time? 

It is a two way street. Often, that casual encounter, that deepening of connection, boosts me, becoming part of my self-care plan for the day, opening up a door to help me move ahead on a problem, to grow as a person. Looking back on life, I often see the beginning of the needed change, the fresh insight, started with a few words on the street corner or the grocery store aisle. 

Someone cared about me and stopped to talk, changing my life.

I’m a believer that encounters and good conversations are usually not random, but an essential piece of the work of the Universe to bring us together, in a place where the sparks can fly and fresh ideas can take off. At the post office, I mailed a letter, picked up my mail, and deepened a relationship with a friend. My task today is to pay attention, and to give space to allow that to happen, to be willing to grow. And, to be a force for change and healing, both for myself and the community.

3/9/2022

Winners and Losers: Post Election Thoughts


            

                        By Neal Lemery

The quiet you are hearing today as you sip your coffee is the resumption of normal life after the frantic election season.  The passionate voices and political advertising noise are fading into the past. We can collect our thoughts without being bombarded, manipulated, and offered endless rides on the roller coasters of political hype.  I need to burn off the adrenaline and angst that the marketers and a number of my friends and neighbors have been firing up in our community life.  

            It might even be safe to have coffee with a friend and exchange pleasantries at the grocery store and post office without donning our political armor. I’d welcome a time of not having heated encounters that will erupt into cultural warfare and social media bloodletting. 

            One way to think of the election results is by listing the winners and losers. That’s painful and continues the divisiveness that has marked this political season.  And, remember, the “losers” are still around, still involved in our community. Like all of us, they should be a positive force for building community. 

Labeling and belittling people isn’t productive, to say the least. I, for one, have had my fill of negative politics this year. There will be other elections and other conversations and debates about important community issues.  Those discussions should include all of us, no matter who received the most votes this week.  

            There are real winners in this election:  For one, democracy and voter participation.  80% of those registered made the effort to vote.  Lots of people got involved and talked about issues, policies and goals that are important to all of us.  And, secondly, the community won.  All this energy and passion educated many of us about important questions and issues that affect how we live and where we go from here. Many of us are fired up to get more involved and bring about change.  

            No matter what the election returns mean to each of us, we still live in our community. We still have family, friends, and neighbors whom we value.  We are still together, and we still share our lives, our hopes, and our dreams.  I still want to believe that the vast majority of us are good people, who are living their lives with compassion and a determination to make a better world.  

            Life goes on.  No matter who received the most votes, our community issues are still here, and still need our attention.  We still have work to do.  Not necessarily political work, mind you, but vital work nonetheless. Together we are stronger.

                                    11/4/2020