Lessons from conversation

On the first Thursday of December, I flocked to the Starbucks in City Center on 6th Street in the attempt to try to get some work done while fire alarm testing was conducted in my apartment building. As 9:30 in the morning came, the flurries fell as the line of drinks – caramel macchiato, chai tea latte, hot mocha – and their recipients, are recited in a somewhat poetic fashion.

It is an unusual sight for a Thursday morning – a packed Starbucks where the people are not worried about deadlines, or the fact that it’s the beginning of the workday. Whether it’s the two women sitting in front of me having a chat as I type on my iPad or two people at a window-side table discussing prospects, the coffee shop has been equated with the ability to nurture curiosity and enrich the spirit.

While it can be the easiest thing to arrange, it can also be the easiest thing to take for granted. We are all bogged down with things that need to be done in order to keep pace with the deadlines we have before us. Especially in journalism, we worry that if we take time to do these things, it would cost us that scoop or ensure that metric was not met – or worse, cost us our job.

It is no secret that the fast-paced rate of information and news can be too much. Indeed, a recent survey of journalists in Europe indicated that more of them are experiencing burnout, with a psychotherapist stating that journalists in modern newsrooms “had been succumbing to anxiety and exhaustion” as a result of factors in the current media climate.

There are professional and personal benefits to coffee and conversation – not only are you networking, exercising curiosity about prospects and broadening your professional horizons, but it has something in this social media-obsessed age of ours that cannot be replicated – a feeling of humanity, a feeling of belonging, a feeling of worth – that we’re all in this together.

Fred Rogers once said: “Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”

I would argue that Rogers’ statement is a credo for the people of Minnesota – people who care about their communities and the people in them amid an ever-evolving world. The media environment may change, and it may snow in April, yet one thing remains a constant – our desire to help our fellow neighbor be at their best, no matter the profession – something that is enhanced when we help each other be at our best through coffee and conversation.

So duck out of the office, grab a friend or a colleague, and sit down with a cup of coffee – because if the news can wait, so too can life.

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