Essential Conversation

I was waiting at the restaurant for a friend. Arriving early, I carried in a notebook and spent some time taking note of my thoughts and my plans for the day.

Nearby, three men sat talking. They were older than me by at least a decade. They were obviously friends. And they knew how to have a real conversation.

It was apparent that the purpose of their meeting was simply to be with each other. In that same restaurant that morning were at least four groups who had come for specific purposes — business meetings, prayer time, romantic relationships, and food consumption. But these guys were simply there to enjoy each other’s company.

In the space of fifteen minutes, they talked about basketball (out of season, no less), the recent rain, the floods from the recent rain, the war in Iraq, the color of a wife’s new car, a good deal on a set of tires, the recent rain (again), high school football, the proper way to pronounce Osama Bin Laden and whether or not he might be related to Barack Obama, yet another way to pronounce Osama Bin Laden and whether or not he might be related to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the constitutionality of red-light cameras, and whether or not it might rain again. And these weren’t distinct and separate conversations. At any moment, any of the three might launch off on a new subject.

Yet, no one was offended when the agenda was thwarted. Instead, as each man spoke the others listened in appreciation for the speaker if not his words.

My phone rang in the midst of all of this — my breakfast meeting was not to be. So I finished up my coffee, threw a couple of dollars on the table to cover my tab and worked my way past the men toward the door.

They were leaving, too. No decisions had been made. No problems solved. No new directions taken. The all-important question was when they could come back together again.

Somehow, some way, I have to believe that most things in the world would go better if we were more focused on staying in community for community’s sake. That would be essential conversation.

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