• Deborah Hansen

The Ball with edges……

“Conversation. What is it? A Mystery!”

Guy de Maupassant

There doesn’t seem to be a gender or age component to this particular oddity, the one involving the ball that refuses to bounce. I sat next to a 20-something young woman recently who caught the ball and then let it fall with a hollow “THUNK” on the table between us, its jagged edges preventing it from returning to me.

Then there was the strange man I sat next to at a party last weekend. (I could call him a stranger and be right either way.) He was a great catcher. Superb, in fact. But that ball, the one I kept trying to get into play, caught on the edge of the plastic chairs we were sitting in every time. I finally got tired of bending over to pick it up off the dusty ground, so just left it lying in the dirt. It got real quiet then between the stranger and me.

This happens so often that I play games with it. (Might as well; I’ve got a silly looking ball in my hand, right?) I’ve sat at a dinner table and tossed the ball to the person sitting across from me, and then watched as the “catcher” has a wonderful time with that ball. I wait, I smile, I wonder, “Will THIS be the person who knows how to throw this darn ball back to me?” Only to watch in disappointment as he puts it down by his water glass. It won’t roll—remember, it’s got edges—so it just sits here. Mute.

I do this several times with the dinner guests until I tire of the game. At that point, the only sounds drifting around the table consist of the clink of silverware or dishes being passed. And all the balls sit on their edges, out of play simply because so many people have forgotten how to play.

Or converse. The art of conversation seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur. This is one issue that can’t be blamed strictly on texting, either (although texting certainly hasn’t helped anyone actually “talk” to others). I have observed and participated in sad scenarios like this one for some time now:

“Hi, this is my first time here! I’m Deborah. What’s your name?” I lob the ball into play.

“[Strange man says his name.]” THUNK. The ball just found its first edge as it drops.

“How long have YOU been part of this group?” I pick the ball up off the ground and try again; I hit it back across the net.

“Oh, about a year! I started coming after I moved here, and didn’t know anyone.” I wait, but then Oops!…the ball falls to the ground again, another edge notched into its surface.

“Where did you move here from?” I’m nothing if not persistent, so back across the net goes the ball.

“California. My grandchildren live here, so it’s been nice to be closer to them.” CLUNK! It sits there again, lonely and quiet.

“How many grandchildren do you have?” I know, I know…why am I still trying to get the ball back, you ask? I agree; this is getting pretty old.

All I can say is that I really enjoy meeting and talking to new people. We all have such great stories and experiences—at least at last recollection we did—and these shared experiences can bring us altogether in some very important ways. Regardless of our age, or ethnicity, or gender, or place of birth we are more similar as humans than we are different.

But we have to talk to each other to find that out, right? I’m exhausted most of the time from stooping over to pick that silly ball up. So, for those of you who need concrete lessons, let’s start that “conversation” between strange guy and me over again:

“Hi, this is my first time here! I’m Deborah. What’s your name?”

Strange man says his name.] Is this your first time here?” THUNK. The ball just got rounder.

“Yes, it is! It seems like a nice group. How long have YOU been a member?”

“Oh, about a year! I started coming after I moved here, and didn’t know anyone. Did you meet a group member somewhere or did you just find us on line?”

“Actually, I met Susie at a networking meeting last week, and she invited me to come tonight! You mentioned that you moved here; where did you move here from?”

“California. My grandchildren live here, though, so it’s been nice to be closer to them. Do YOU have any family in the area?”

“Yes, I do. My daughter lives here and my mother lives with me. I don’t have any grand children yet. How many do you have?”

And the ball bounces on, no edges to catch on anything. The ball stays in the air more than it drops and it’s a lot more fun to play the game.

Conversation doesn’t have to be a mystery. It simply involves showing a little interest in the person on the other side of the net, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

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