March 2011 Newsletter – Thinking Out-Loud

The beginning of this month I was a guest on KSAL 1150 AM talk radio. This was a full hour show with call-ins during the second 30 minutes. I was prepared to answer their questions, but as the calling and emailing began, it wasn’t questions they had on their minds. They were contemplating the discussion that had taken place between the hosts, Clarke and Nancy, and me on the air. Their response was to “think out-loud,” because they were given the opportunity to do so. How often are we invited to discuss topics about dying? How often are we in a “safe” environment to do so? At first I was taken aback, but then realized that seeds had been planted. The conversation that afternoon between the radio hosts, the callers and myself was so genuine, it seemed there would certainly be further discussions sprouting from that short hour.

Listening to the banter of the radio hosts before I went on the air, I was aware of the small-town familiarity. They weren’t just speaking to fill air time, they were providing fun and stimulation for the commuters on their way home, for the bowlers Clarke saw at the lanes that weekend, and to friends and townspeople who tune in daily for this show. It took me back to the “community” we all need that I wrote about in Chapter 8.

My older daughter was reminded of this a week ago when glancing through the Gazette obituaries. Her face paused on a photo that she recognized. She knew the man easily as, double tall, non-fat, no-whip mocha, guy who comes into Starbucks when she works some evenings. She knew his name, but thought of him as the guy who looks like James Dean. “You get used to regular faces and when they don’t come in when they say they will, or usually do without fail, we notice – even grow concerned.”

She took the clipping to work that day, hanging it on the bulletin board for the other workers to see. One employee knew his family. “These folks become fixtures to us. They grow to feel a comfort with us and share the events of their day with us as they stop in for a coffee on their way home from work, or after a dinner out, or on their way home from their kid’s basketball practice. It is a sense of community.”

Last week a man was attracted to the cover of my book from across the bookstore. He purchased it, read most of it and then called and left me a message. He, too, needed to “think out-loud.” To his surprise I called him back and he expressed to me some of his questions for whom he had no one else to ask. “What should I do to confront the rest of my life?” “What do I have to look forward to now?” We talked for a while and I asked him to ponder some questions I had for him. I asked him to finish the book and call me after.

Are we waiting for doctors to bring up end-of-life topics at our exam, or for pastors to talk about our important questions in their sermons? There is nothing wrong with questioning our purpose, our lives, and our legacies, and we shouldn’t shirk from wanting to “think out-loud.” Invite me to your church class, your book club, your counseling group. I’ll not only let you “think out-loud,” I’ll lead your group in a meaningful discussion that will plant seeds for lots of open communication for days, weeks and years to come.