On Friday, my friend Sharlene hosted a birthday party for herself. Some of us knew one another and several of us were new to one another. Of course, an excellent pot-luck meal began the process of getting to know one another. After the meatballs, penne, chicken curry, and salads, something deepened the connection.
Kim and Jerry had taken a lovely beeswax candle as a birthday gift. Kim asked the group, which was already circular in shape, to receive the candle one at a time and offer appreciation and good wishes for Sharlene. The chit-chat slowed down and we became more focused as each person took a turn holding the long piece of fragrant beeswax, spoke words of appreciation about their relatedness with Sharlene, then offered specific blessings for her for the coming year. The stories and wishes told us a lot, not only about the one being honoured, but also about each other. To be in this spontaneous council was to witness the core of each guest. Then the guitars came out and we sang and enjoyed music.
Imagine having the courage and creativity to call such spontaneous conversation circles more often. What if folks concerned about local food stood in a supermarket using a baguette as a talking piece to respond to, “How might we engage this store in conversation with their local farmers?” What if the cleaning person said to the room full of executives, “What can we do to ensure safe and green products are used by this company?” What if a five-year-old girl delivered an autumn leaf to her parents and asked, “When will stop yelling so you can hear each other?” What if the first 15 minutes of a holiday dinner became an opportunity to respond to, “In what way are you a gift to the world?”
Who knew that such musings would be called forth from a birthday party! What spontaneous circles of conversation and listening have you been in? What spontaneous circle of conversation can you see yourself calling next?