It’s been said in a derogatory way that “talk is cheap.” I suppose it is, but it is also cheap in a wonderful way. There are few things that we can do in just about every environment and every situation to relieve boredom, share companionship and stimulate the mind, but if have a suitably disposed partner, a good conversation is a wonderful way to spend an inexpensive afternoon or evening, and the cost can be nothing or negligible depending on the environment that you choose for your chat.
Last night, for example, I visited a local sports bar so that I could shoot some pool with my son. My son drinks lemonade and I drink unsweetened iced tea so the evening is always inexpensive for us because refills are free (but I always tip the server as if we had to pay for each round). While my son was shooting pool (having decided that he needed to practice by himself until he could give me a good game), I had the pleasure of listening to a large group of men and women discussing the battle at Chancellorsville during the American Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression as my friends in Alabama like to call it). There were about 12 people at the table and they clearly knew the minutia of the battle far beyond anything that is taught in any high school or college course I have ever taken. They also seemed to be able to speak without a steady infusion of anything more than a sodas and iced teas with one or two nursing a beer.
I chatted with one of the Civil War buffs and learned that they had been discussing the Civil War, and history in general for the past few hours and that they would probably be doing so late into the evening. I was impressed, both with the knowledge that they exhibited (and that I could not help but overhear) and with the pleasure they derived from their conversation. I was also impressed that in the two hours I was at the sports bar, not one of the participants in the discussion ordered anything to eat or drink — or even finished the beverages already on the table — because they were so engaged in their discussion.
Conversation may be inexpensive but it is certainly not valueless and in the right venues and with the right people, it can be priceless. Here are five ways that you can find conversations that will sustain you when you might otherwise be out spending more than you should:
Call on an old friend or relative with whom you have not spoken in a long time: Even if you have lost touch with people, the internet can make it easy to reach out and find long lost friends and even family members. If you don’t already have phone numbers in your address book, you can use Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking to find people. When you do re-establish contact, take the time to pick up the phone and make a phone call to reconnect. Whether it has been weeks, or months or years since you have spoken, you probably have a lot of catching up to do! Brew a pot of coffee or tea before the call and then relax while you catch up. Better yet, make plans to meet in person so that you can really enjoy each other’s company.
Volunteer at an elder care facility: There are about 1000 members of the Greatest Generation — those who lived through the depression and World War II — dying every day. Many of them are alone or lonely in nursing homes and other elder care facilities and all of them have a wonder personal history to share. Take some time to volunteer in a local elder care facility and you will save more than money, you will make a lot of forgotten people very happy and you will probably learn a lot about yourself, too.
Explore on-line forums: There are on-line discussion groups for every topic imaginable. I am very active in a World War II forum and I have made many a good friend there. At the forum, I am able to chat about subjects of common interest (the Second World War, in my case) with people from all over the globe, many of whom have crossed over into my real world friends as well. Of course, as with all relationships, it is wise to be cautious before giving out too much information on-line, but after lurking a bit and getting to know the people on a forum that interests you, you will get a good sense of who you should befriend.
Find out what talks your church offers: Most churches offer more than just bible study. My church has a financial discussion group, a small business owner group, a book club and several other groups that meet for conversation and coffee. The groups are a great way to meet people and to spend a morning, afternoon or evening every week or two. Of course, church organizations such as the Knights of Columbus also offer a great sense of community and conversation.
Discover the groups that meet at your local library: Our local library has book clubs and discussion groups that meet six days each week. They offer a great way to get out and meet people in your local community who share a common interest with you and they usually do not cost a penny.
So, although talk may be cheap, it is also a great way to spend quality time with people who share a common interest with you. It’s also been said that the art of conversation is dead. I just can’t agree with that. What do you think? Where are the best places to meet for quiet conversation or spirited debate? Where does discussion factor into your social planning?