Taking Time to Talk

Farmer with a pitchfork by Winslow Homer

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

~Robert Frost “A Time to Talk” from The Poetry of Robert Frost.

Conversations these days often take place asynchronously – text messages back and forth, voicemails, instant messages, emails – all composed and sent when most convenient so not necessarily as time-responsive as they could be.

Chatting over a fence, or on a front porch or even over the phone just doesn’t happen easily any more, especially during the pandemic years of avoiding face-to-face encounters.

Even more unusual is taking time during the work day to talk. Interruptions leading to setting aside the computer mouse or the stethoscope or the hoe can be challenging when there are only so many hours in the day.

I’m really terrible at conversation because I’ve always been shy and awkward at small talk. It’s all good when it is part of my work in an exam room, but to be honest, I don’t make time to go out to coffee with someone, or meet over a meal, or even enjoy a spontaneous visit while out for a walk or the grocery store. I’d rather be washing dishes at our weekly church potlucks.

And I’m missing out on an opportunity to love and be loved. Forgive me, friends, for my reticent nature.

The next time someone shouts at me “Howdy!” – I won’t just wave and keep on with whatever business I’m doing. I’ll stop, set aside my work tools and come over to chat. Putting two heads together in conversation is what our life and language is all about

Howdy back at you!


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4 thoughts on “Taking Time to Talk

  1. Thank you for another post revealing more of yourself to the Barnstorming world. Again your words made me think about who I am.

    I am an introvert by temperament made worse by parents who distrusted everyone and particularly with anyone associated with the government that incarcerated them for being of Japanese descent.

    The grace of God showed me a better way. I learned that everyone has a story and that they are eager to tell that story to anyone interested enough to listen. This served me well in a life called to ministry.

    In a country so imbedded in the culture of materialism, having coffee with someone just to converse is seen as doing nothing productive.

    People are being crushed by the secrets and stories they continue to accrue without an outlet to share them. “We are not just what we do,” they want to shout, but continue on the path to depression in quietude.

    I love who you are, a human being full of stories, feelings, and a wealth of a lifetime of experiences as a farmer/physician. You speak to the natural world around you and you listened to your patients when they harbored something to say.

    Thank you for being you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Michael, you read me very well and your words of grace mean a great deal! I push myself to be more transparent about who I am, but always reluctant to acknowledge my flaws and frailties after a lifetime of keeping them tucked away in silence. Thank you for taking me “as I am” — that is indeed grace from a man who understands the Lord! love from Emily


  3. I am an introvert and small talk is most painful for me. Yet nothing brightens my day more than when my next-door neighbor texts, “Meet me in the backyard by the fence.” Her presenting me with a handful of fresh basil from her garden becomes a 30-minute conversation of chatter…small talk. Somehow, that just happens.

    Liked by 1 person

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