Small Talk… Big Ideas

May 12, 2021

By Jane St. Pierre

We’ve heard the clichés – “It takes a village…” and “We are all in this together”—and they are both TRUTH!  However, as I glance around in grocery lines, in waiting rooms, and other areas that are ideal for making personal connections with others, all that I see are bent necks and hunched shoulders huddled over electronic devices. 

Yes, I am old-school! Yes, I, too, marvel over the genius of technology and the tremendous implications it has for improving many aspects of life. However, I am dismayed over the negative impact it has had on our society’s ability to make small talk with the wonderful people the universe puts in our physical presence as opposed to always seeking company from those in our contact lists and social media feeds (which are carefully designed to connect us with others who share our views/backgrounds).  I hope that as we all begin to move forward from pandemic-imposed isolation that we embrace this new opportunity to once again engage with random people who cross our paths.

My sons have completed their academic careers; both had learning differences which required a deviation from the traditional school experience which works for the majority. I am so thankful for the many brilliant ideas that unexpectedly fell from heaven as I conversed with “strangers” in my midst.  Being open and honest about problem solving dyslexia with a high school student or anxiety/ depression that affects academic performance has led others to reciprocate. Every “have you tried this,” or “we know a guy who,” or “our daughter’s school accommodates that by doing these” were literally golden nuggets that fell in my lap. There are so many people who surround us who have “boots on the ground” experience with issues that are demanding our attention.  Are we missing opportunities for helping students with learning disabilities by hovering over our smart devices and sending a clear signal to our momentary neighbors that we are not to be engaged in conversation?

Small talk has led to seeking second opinions, asking for accommodations we did not know existed, finding terrific therapists who specialized in our areas of need, and gaining a little hard-earned wisdom from others who have tried certain remedies that failed. Even when a new strategy of attack was not obtained, it was always comforting to know that the academic journey involving learning differences that we were traveling had companions. 

This “mama bear” educational advocate made it to the finish line! But I certainly did not do it alone.  Here’s a very heart-felt “thanks” to the lovely “small talkers” in our community.  Thanks for the big ideas that saw us through!