Small Talk and Weather

It’s snowing on the blog, because it’s Christmas time! I hope you enjoy the snow like me, because it’s going to sweep across the screen and fall down for about a month.

Speaking of weather, which is one of the most boring and obvious topics of discussion in human conversation, I had to talk a lot about it yesterday. It’s that great, time wasting small talk topic that I have begun to encounter more and more in life. It’s especially easy to call into play right now, because Colorado is experiencing a bizarre-San-Diego-like-December. So, when there’s that awkward gap in conversation I keep throwing out, “can you believe this weather? I mean, weird! I’m wearing scarves in protest; but you know, Ethan is loving the fact that he can still wear shorts.” I’ve become quite proficient with rambling about the sun, the dry patches on the lawn [that I don’t have] and the drought. Lately, it’s a skill come in handy as I continue to find myself in settings where there’s nothing else to converse about.

You might be wondering where I keep being forced into use of my weathering skills and deflecting deeper conversational topics. I haven’t traveled, seen distant relatives or attended any major events full of strangers with tired hands and distracted eyes. No, the sad thing is, I keep having small talk like this at a church where I serve (though I no longer attend).

Ethan and I left service yesterday after both of us had worked an exhausting three hours with very cranky and upset children. We had wandered into the sanctuary and chatted with a few people we might have once considered our community. But the thing that pervaded all the talk about jobs, relationships and Christmas was the weather.

Now, I’ll admit, Colorado is experiencing some odd weather this year. But that’s not the reason everyone continues to fall back on the topic.

It’s because we don’t know what else to talk about.

This seems a bit wrong–a church community where I’ve attended for about six years should include a bit more depth, shouldn’t it? I think I ought to know people and can rightfully expect them to know me in return. Can we discuss my anxiety issues that are finally coming under control? What about our financial burdens: school, car problems, worn out clothes that can no longer be patched? Should we mention that E has moved four times in less than a year and that the instability is really hard? We don’t talk about those things, and I’m not entirely sure why. Certainly, I don’t want to hold this congregation separately from the rest my life experiences and point an accusing finger. But Ethan and I have really struggled to get below the surface with people.

It isn’t just a problem at the church. I have a friend who shared that this happens in his family often and he finally confronted everyone about it a few weeks ago. A student in my youthgroup recently told me they experience something similar every week that we meet.

Which is why I am wondering: why is it so hard to get beyond the weather and other small talk–in our churches, our families, everywhere? What can we do to change that?

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