Stories From The Field: Living Room Conversation In Action

Three parts of the country. Many different stories. One common thread.

Meet Brett, Diane, and Hillary. Each one of them saw a need and stepped into to meet it.  Along the way, they discovered hope, connection–even their own sense of power–through conversation.

“Conversations restored my faith in humanity,” – Brett Yeager
Brett’s recent Living Room Conversation on Trust gave him an anchor, a way to ground himself, at a time when so much feels out of control at the national level.

The conversation itself, along with the participants which Brett describes as “Conservatives from Midwest as well as Liberals from the Coasts, it restored my faith in humanity.”

For Brett, politics is local. That is where he believes we can make the most difference. When our news diet, including social media, focuses only on national issues, we lose sight of how much power we have. Brett finds Living Room Conversations to be helpful antidote.

“Living Room Conversations brings the conversation back to local – small group conversations – where you can really listen and learn and love, despite differences, and surprisingly, even because of differences.”

“I’ve gained confidence being raw, admitting I don’t have the answer.” – Diane Lynch
Similarly, Diane Lynch has hosted monthly Living Room Conversations outside in a local park during the pandemic. The group has grown organically through word of mouth and includes working professionals in their twenties, young parents, and neighbors into their fifties.

They’ve met in ice, rain, heat, and snow.  This monthly practice has strengthened them during this very difficult year. Diane says that the monthly conversations have “brought strangers together for a common reason, and from it, real friendships are forming, and community networks are growing. It has all been so effortless.

Many times members are drawn to tears. We feel safe to be vulnerable with one another. It is therapeutic and gives each of us strength to tackle the world around us during a time where connections are rare.”

Beyond strengthening the community through new relationships, Diane sees the benefit of the conversation practice in her own life.

“I’ve become a better listener, and gained confidence being raw, admitting that I don’t have the answers,” she said.

“These conversations are a stepping stone to community organizing for peace.” – Hillary Stern
Temple B’ani Israel is not far from Scotland, CT where the Klu Klux Klan has an active presence. As a small, Jewish community in a rural area, they are worried about the rising tide of hate crime in their area.

Their Rabbi suggested developing a community organizing venture to increase understanding, build relationships, and serve each other. But they soon realized their congregation needed to start closer to home.

“We needed to first to know each other better and ‘what keeps us up at night’ before we could effectively build relationship with our wider community,” said Hillary Stern.

Living Room Conversations fit that need perfectly. During COVID, they began having regular conversations and called them “Temple Talks.”

These conversations helped the congregation listen, connect, and support each other. “We found that these conversations are a stepping stone to community organizing for peace and justice,” Hillary shares.

Through their stories, Hillary, Diane, and Brett help us better understand how Living Room Conversations are helping to make a difference in communities nationwide. There is no “one size fits all” model, and we are limited only by our imagination.

There are thousands more stories like this out there, and we celebrate each and every one of you who are reaching out, having conversations, and daring to hope.

We hope you see yourself in these stories and realize our collective impact. As we toil away infusing our little pockets of the world with a bit more goodness, it can be hard to remember that we are part of a greater whole.

But our pieces do connect.  Together, we’re birthing something real and true and beautiful.

Shannon Mannon
Newsletter Editor

Diane Lynch (third from left) with some of the Phoenixville Community Living Room Conversation group after meeting in a local park.