Those who have had the privilege (or curse, everyone has their opinion) of meeting me, know that I like to talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. My kids are often heard exasperating “Mom, do you have to talk to everyone you see on the street?”) I like to talk, and I like to talk to people as much, if not more than I like to talk to myself. When you talk to a lot of people, you get to know a lot of people, and I love that! It is rare that I walk around my neighborhood and I’m not greeted by someone on the street, and it works for me. It keeps me present and it keeps me grounded, and I am grateful for the people who pass through my life every day. I live in a big building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which means lots of people to talk to, from my neighbors to the awesome employees of the building. Just like any social situation, you hear things from time to time. Like “neighbor so and so” has a new grandkid, or “neighbor so and so” got engaged, or “neighbor so and so” has a puppy now. And sometimes it’s not great news, like two weeks ago when I heard that one of my neighbors children was killed in an accident. This neighbor is not someone I know well at all, and he isn’t here all the time either, but we’ve had conversations and he likes my dog, so there’s always polite chatting while he gets his dog fix. I ran into this neighbor a couple days after hearing the news, we ended up in the elevator together and I was with a friend. I simply said “Hi, how are you?” He looked wrecked of course, swollen eyes, slumped over a bit, just clearly having a hard time. He worked up a smile and asked me about my kids, without answering the question. I knew then that he didn’t want to talk about his son, or couldn’t talk about his son. So as best as I could, I pepped up and gave him a quick answer as the elevator let us out of what had become a very tight space. Then I saw him again last week. Again we ended up in the elevator, this time I had my dog (thankfully), and this time we actually walked down the block a clip. The conversation was light and we talked about his dog who is getting up there in age, and about the weather, and nothing else. I watched him walk off on his way to work with his head hung down just enough for me to notice but something others might not sense if they didn’t know what I knew. It was then I realized he didn’t need me to say anything about his devastating loss, he needed me to just be the chatty neighbor with the cute dog that he knows me to be. And in that moment, I was grateful to be just that.
Silence is just as important as talking.