Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quiet Listening

Final examination week is the time when Dormgrandpop hosts ‘study break hour.’ From 10:45 until midnight, on each evening preceding a final examination day, I open my apartment. There is a pot of coffee, hot water for tea, tea bags (conventional and herbal) and juice on the kitchen table. My living room table offers chocolate chip cookies, oreos, crunchy Reese bars and recently harvested apples. My meditation companion, a Buddha statue imported from Sri Lanka, views the scene benignly. A hand lettered sign points visitors to soft drinks in the refrigerator and Klondike Bars in the freezer. Another socializes visitors to the norm of Study Break Hour, “its ok to grab a snack and run.”

Some of the twenty-five or so visitors who drop by do exactly that, but others remain until I close up shop at midnight. Sometimes I participate in the conversations, but often, I simply sit back at listen. The conversations in which I share - or to which I listen - suggest that stereotypes of a younger generation, devoid of social skills, whose members primarily communicates via Twitter and text messaging need qualification. Our talk is at about the same level of banality as at social gatherings in rural Virginia where I spend my weekends, but with more humor, warmth, energy and optimism. There are few or no interruptions to answer cell phones or text message. They are always brief. Talk is of friends, relationships, parents, final exams, holiday plans, the tribulations of AU’s bureaucracy and the anticipation of study abroad trips to Argentina, Kenya, Brussels, London, South Africa and Spain.

I treasure these times of quiet listening, when I am accepted as a non intrusive, non threatening sojourner in a world that few older adults, especially of my generation have been privileged to share.

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