My greatest example of the magic of trivial conversation came from my late father. He was named “funniest-friendliest person” by the local newspaper in the small Texas county I was born in. Really. That’s a real award. My dad had friends across the political spectrum. He saw a person’s ability to find a moment of levity — a laugh about the Aggie vs. Longhorn rivalry — as more important than the person’s political affiliation. He saw the demonization of your political opponents as a character flaw, not a mark of purity or passion.
Our ability to “chat it up” is key. We gain nothing through our inability to have a conversation even about the weather just because the person we could talk to about the weather didn’t vote for my person in the last election.
Each of us is more than the sum of our political and religious beliefs. We each have complex relationships with the people we love. We each have bodies that get sick, that enjoy good tacos or the turning of fall. We like certain movies or music. We laugh at how babies sound when they sneeze. We hurt when we skin a knee. The way we form humanizing, nonthreatening interactions around these things taps into something real about us. We are three-dimensional people who are textured, interesting, ordinary and lovely.
These are needed words for me. It’s not a knock-down, drag-out fight on everything. I need to watch myself more. While I certainly like more depth in conversation with folks I know a little more deeply, it is still vital to be able chat about the “non-essentials” in a way that says, “Hey, I’m human. You are, too. We have that depth in common.”