The Impact of a Brief Conversation

It’s amazing how much little things matter.

George was sitting all by himself at Panera in the middle of the afternoon on New Year’s Day. He picked a table by the window. So he could see the people passing outside as well as those around him.

George was 78 years old. His wife died 3 years ago. His son and daughter live out of town. Many of his friends had died. Those few still alive are married and celebrating the holiday with their wives or with their children. He didn’t want to impose on them but he didn’t want to be alone on this New Year’s Day.

That’s what led him to Panera –- the opportunity to spend time with others. It didn’t matter if they didn’t know him. Nor that they might not talk to him. They were there and he could hear them talking to each other. That was enough. He had brought a book with him to pretend he was reading. He sat there with it as he sipped his coffee.

Just then there was a voice, "What are you reading, young man?" He looked up to see a man standing by him. "It’s Rogue Lawyer By John Grisham," George responded. "John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost all his books."

The stranger introduced himself. His name was Dave Barrett. Dave was in town with his wife for the holidays. They were spending time with their oldest son and his family. In fact, his wife, their son and daughter-in-law were at a nearby table. Dave just got up to refill his coffee.

As they spoke, Dave noticed the tremor in George’s right hand. He figured George was suffering from Parkinson’s but wouldn’t ask him. George told Dave about the area around his home and how it changed over the years. More people had moved in, more houses were built and it had grown more populated. At one time, George’s house was the only one on the block. Now there were houses as far as you could see.

Dave told him the same thing happened where he lived. More people moved there and what had been rural was now all homes.

Dave spent about 10 minutes talking to George before it dawned on him his family was waiting for him. He thanked George for the opportunity to talk to him and wished him a Happy New Year.

That unexpected conversation with Dave brightened George’s day. It eliminated the loneliness he had felt. When he went home, he was still happy. He had a great conversation with someone he didn’t know. 2 weeks later he was still telling others about it and he smiled as he did.

It’s amazing. We never know how a brief conversation, a token of friendship, will impact another person. It may have been awhile since they had someone to talk with. They don’t want to impose on a friend. However, they would welcome any opportunity to get free of that cloud of loneliness hanging over them.

If there is an older person living in your neighborhood who doesn’t have family or friends visiting on a regular basis, stop by periodically and see how they’re doing. Even if for a short period of time. They will relish it.

If you have time, visit a senior center or a nursing home. At every one there are residents up in age who no longer have family in the area. Many of their friends may have already died. They have no regular visitors.

How do you find out who these are? Just ask at the desk. The people working there know. Pop your head into one of their rooms, say you were in the neighborhood and was wondering if they had the opportunity to talk.

You can be sure they will be delighted to talk with you. Don’t be surprised if they start telling you their life story. You may find you have made a new friend and decide to go back and visit them on a regular basis.

This is one way you can brighten the day of an older person. There are many others. Meeting one and starting a conversation will open the door to the others.