The art of conversation

Is the art of conversation becoming lost?

I’m not talking about that tricky talent of communication.  This isn’t one of those discussions to help us communicate more effectively.  I’m still trying to learn that myself.

No, I’m referring to conversation.  Small talk, big talk, just talk in general.  Let’s put aside the common liability of modern technology.  I think most of us can agree we are all doing a pretty decent job of killing the English language one text and Facebook status at a time.  Or maybe it’s our competitive mindset that we have to win everything.  Even a simple conversation.   Whatever it is, real and true conversations are beginning to be hard to come by.

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Fun with English

Oh, the English language.  With all its intricacies, I would not want to be a late-comer to learning English.  With all of the rules and exceptions to rules, there are persistent rumors that it’s the hardest language to learn.  According to, that is an exaggeration. It didn’t even crack the top 10 hardest.  Still, I have to admit, it is quirky.  With the blend of so many nationalities, it’s become a smorgasbord of language.  In honor of my native tongue, I am going to have some fun with English.  Please keep in mind, I’m not an English major so the joke might be on me.

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Sometimes words let me down.  A stark definition can’t always connect the dots I need to illuminate the picture.  It’s been said a “Picture is worth a thousand words” and for me, a story makes a mental picture.  Here are a few definitions I have found by experience.

Courage:  “Quality of being brave” (Encarta)

The Last of the First to Know

Her parents came in first.  There was some kind of secret they were keeping.  “It’s NR’s story,” her mom said.  The family had asked to come over and share some news with us.  My niece, NR, and her boyfriend, ND, walked into the house holding hands.  Oh great, I thought.  She’s getting married.  Let me interrupt and clarify, I am very much pro-marriage.  It is a good thing and I have nothing against it.  But NR was only eighteen at the time and had graduated high school six months prior to this little family meeting.  She was just on the brink of finding out who she was and what made her tick.  I pictured her moving to the big city and having many adventures before choosing to marry.  So, no I wasn’t happy with the news I thought was coming.

NR and ND sat on the couch and every eye turned on them.  If they held hands any tighter they would have broken each other’s bones.  The news she had to share was unexpected.  It turns out, even though her and I sat by each other in the last family picture, I didn’t know her very well.  She explained everything and didn’t hold anything back.  Tears rolled down her cheeks and she didn’t make eye contact with any of us.  Her grandpa had often called her ‘perfect’ and now, she was avoiding his eyes.

We were the last of the first to know.  To borrow the words of a Reba song, “What do you say, in a moment like this?”  When she finished, we each gave her a hug to ensure her that she was still our NR and we loved her.  A few years ago, I felt prompted to tell each of my nieces and nephew, “You’re a good kid.”  Every time we hugged, I used to whisper it in his or her ear.  But the message became redundant and less powerful.  The kids even mocked me for saying it.  So, I quit.  But while we hugged that night, I whispered it again.  NR looked at me like I had made a mistake.  No mistake.  She’s still a good kid.

I think of NR sitting on the couch that night and telling us something she would have preferred not to.  That, to me, is courage.  Doing the task even though it’s hard and we’d rather not. 

Optimism: “Tendency to expect best” (Encarta)

They Knew What They were Doing

My dad is not an optimistic person.  We have a couple of family mottos that sums up his attitude: “Grin and bear it” which has devolved into “Hang in there.”  A dark cloud follows the Lee’s wherever we may go and we expect it.  When my mom got sick a few years ago, a facet to my father emerged.  People would ask how mom was doing and his reply would be along the lines of, “She’s doing much better.”  Or “She’s gonna make it.”  The trouble was, sometimes he was the only person that knew that.

My siblings and I worried about him.  We thought maybe he was avoiding dealing with the possibility of the worst.  Time after time, if he was asked at work, church, or by friends, he declared his belief that mom was going to be okay.

Turns out he was right.

My mom has been undergoing chemo again this summer.  A couple of weeks ago, she had a bad reaction to her treatment that sent her to ICU for the night.  It came on quickly before dad realized what was going on.  The doctors and nurses crowded around mom’s bed.  Orders were given and quickly obeyed.  My dad watched from the corner of the room.  He later told us, “I knew she was going to be okay.  Sure, I cried but I knew they knew what they were doing.”

Out of all the things in this sometimes bleak world to find light in, dad found it in mom’s sickness.   He offers hope to those of us who are afraid to hope. 

Dork: “an offensive term that deliberately insults somebody’s intelligence, physical appearance or social skills” (Encarta).

You Can’t Hide Dork

The official definition and my personal definition do not agree with each other.  Let me start by saying, I have many talents and abilities.  No, I’m not suffering from a dangerously low self-esteem.  But I am the personification of a dork.  A cute, loveable dork though not the demeaning kind Encarta defines. 

When I was on my mission, I became the senior companion in my second area.  This meant I drove the car.  One day, my companion and I went to an investigator’s apartment for an appointment.  She wasn’t there.  We decided to wait fifteen minutes and come back to the door.  Sister E. and I sat in the car and waited.   It was a cold, rainy day so I turned the heater on.  Our investigator came home and we watched her go into her apartment with a sack full of groceries.  We went to the door and knocked again.  Her sister answered the door and informed us our investigator wasn’t home. 

Obviously, she didn’t want to meet with us.  We walked back to the car, dejected and sad.  As we approached the car, I realized I didn’t have the keys.  They were in the ignition still.  We had to walk to our apartment in the cold rain and call the mission office.  Two office Elders brought a spare key over so that we could get back into our car.

When I do embarrassing things, I don’t do them quietly.  I have had many experiences that have helped me realize, you can’t hide dork.  Embrace the dorkiness, it’s not going to go away.

That’s how I define these three words.  Perhaps your definitions are slightly different?  That’s the beauty of language.  We each bring our own personal meaning to the word.  And that’s why communication is so important.  It helps us see each other’s pictures.