What wonderful news we received from the owner of an independent bookstore in Zebulon, Georgia who offers Living Room Conversations! Here is the story of how A Novel Experience came to offer Living Room Conversations as told by Chris Curry, who works there:
Zebulon is a town of 1,200 in west central Georgia about an hour and a half outside of Atlanta. Pike County has 5 tiny cities and 18,200 people in it. Our bookstore is located across from the 1895 County Courthouse on the square. There are two stop lights in the whole county–and, luckily, one of them is right outside our store.
It’s been a really tumultuous time in the country and we loved the idea of a platform to hear from a diverse group of community members. Our community is mostly conservative and we wanted to offer a forum to open up the conversations we were having over the counter. Our store’s rule is: “Anyone can join in any conversation”–and, people do! We liked Living Room Conversations because the Conversation Agreements were clear, respectful, and called on everyone to take responsibility for the quality of their contribution. The topics are relevant and the question rounds are excellent.
Here’s one story about a Living Room Conversation on Guns and Responsibility. We gathered, and once we sat down, I asked everyone who was carrying to put their gun on the coffee table in the middle of the circle of chairs. (We usually have a dozen participants). Three of our participants reached under their jackets, and put their handguns on the table–to laughter and some wide-eyed astonished gasps of others. But you know what happened is what happens every time: At the close, we did indeed have common opinions on some facets of the subject–everyone agreed that gun owners should be trained and licensed, for example.
We meet on the last Sunday of every month. I find we do great at following the Conversation Agreements for 1.25 hours, and then, when it gets a bit diffused, we need to close and enjoy each other’s company over beverages. Feedback is uniformly positive, and we usually have the same folks, though we are trying for more diversity. We just recruited two 20-year olds (both fairly conservative) who offer a different perspective than our mostly 50-60 year olds. More liberals than conservatives, but the latter can hold their own! We are reaching out to some of our African American friends as well.