Constant Conversation

If there is one thing I don’t think I could ever get used to in Allendale, it’s the gnats that swarm you every time the temperature gets above 69.5 degrees F. And that’s about three-fourths of the year.

If there is another thing that I just don’t get, it’s how the constant noise and conversation is commonplace. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; it’s just that I’m not used to it. It’s a part of this culture, but not mine.

Some Examples

We first were introduced to phenomenon during a church worship service. Instead of the usual (for us) teaching and singing that was directed from on stage, the sermons were more responsive. The atmosphere is that of conversation, versus a monologue. It was a different experience. Good, and different.

A local restaurant has a TV in the corner, which airs a news station. And it’s always on. And always on loud. Nothing like trying to have a family dinner, when political pundits are screaming in your ear (and in the ears of your kids).

On one occasion, I attended a breakfast in an apartment. Good food, good people, good fellowship. But I was shocked when one of the men walked over to the TV and turned it on, and proceeded to increase the volume. It was loud — very loud — and basically eliminated any chance to talk. Fortunately, someone turned the volume down about 15 minutes later.

We’ve also noticed this “culture of conversation” as we’ve worked with kids. The children are constantly responding to us when we talk to them. Sometimes it’s distracting, but it is nice to know that someone is paying attention.

The Good and the Bad

What I like about this desire of response is that it tends to include people. It helps show and solidify the importance of community. It is good for people to feel like they are a part of a team.

But there can be a danger and an overuse of this noise and chatter. Too much constant noise can cause the important things to be missed. When you have a TV or video games or the radio blaring, that tends to drown out positive conversation.

When constant “noise” is a way for people to connect, I’m all for it. But when it’s a means of escape or avoidance, it becomes a detriment.

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**image courtesy of Ambrozjo via sxc.hu

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