It has been unseasonably cold this past week. We have had frost warnings in the morning and a few brief and unproductive snow flurries in the afternoon. Spring made a brief appearance last week, the trees are budding and flowers blooming, but her coming has slowed this week.
Spring’s late arrival has been a gift.
Everywhere you go – the coffee hour at church, the checkout line at the grocery store, the walk through the neighborhood – people have something to talk about, more than that, something to agree about.
“It’s a little chilly out,” we say.
“Where is spring?” a friend or stranger replies.
How human. How nice.
We might think of small talk as being, well, small. Inconsequential. But, in fact, it is something big and of great consequence. Small talk allows us to connect with another person. That connection is good in and of itself. Not only that, sometimes wonderful friendships begin with small talk and the consequences are huge; they change our lives.
Yes, small talk is a good thing, But small talk is in danger of becoming a victim of our polarzized moment in history. Rather than bringing human connection and even friendship,ours is a time when small talk can lead to disconnection and enmity.
“I’ll have a Bud Light,” he says as he sidles up to the bar.
“Woke #%$&*,” replies the customer standing next to him.
There are good reasons not to drink Bud Light, but when talking to a stranger at the bar, they are just a matter of personal (or even poitical) taste – matters that don’t really matter.
And, by the way, forget substituting a Miller High Life for your Bud. This Miller (the champagne of beers) is not for you, either. Or at least not in the EU. NPR reports that according to European Union rules, “goods infringing a protected designation of origin can be treated as counterfeit.” Thank goodness for rules that protect us from confusing some American swill with French bubbly. It’s a fake.
So, let’s raise a glass (Bud Light, Miller, or French champagne – your choice) to small talk. Let’s drink to human connection across the great divides or our time.
The current forecast has us hitting a high of 65° on Thursday. Come on, spring, you can do it.
In the meantime, here’s to the chilly weather. And don’t tell me about climate change.