Since April, I have been leading salons at Time’s Tin Cup, a wonderful antique/vintage shop in Boonton, New Jersey. Laurel Durenberger, the owner, had been telling me for a while that she wanted to start doing salons in her shop. Finally, I asked her what it would take to get them going, and she said with wonderful honestly that it would require someone leading them. Feeling a need for another avenue to connect with people, especially since the publication of my memoir, I volunteered to lead a monthly salon series that was focused on wellness.
What is a salon? Wikipedia describes it as, “a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.” After reading this definition did I learn that I would be the “inspiring host”, even though technically we were under Laurel’s roof. I was aiming more for “facilitator” or “moderator” or maybe even “conversation igniter” with the hopes that the discussions would evolve organically on their own. I definitely wanted to stay away from becoming a “mediator” or an “argument manager” or “one who squashes the beef”, which now that I’m a vegetarian sounds even more icky.
Fortunately, I have never needed to be any of those things except a “conversation igniter”, which is my favorite description for my role. What starts as a spoken thought magically evolves to insights shared by others that give participants many lightbulb moments, often sprinkled with lots of laughs in between. Our first salon was about quieting our mental noise. Our most recent salon was about the art of practicing gratitude. Both conversations had their tangents that interwove themselves back to the original topic without any effort.
However, a striking moment happened at the last salon when one of the participants asked, “how did this happen?”….meaning how did we get a room full of 10 people, most of whom had just met for the first time, together to talk about this topic? We’d advertised the event mostly on social media and word of mouth, but it was striking that we were able to gather together 10 people from all walks of life, two of whom weren’t even born in this country, for an evening of conversation….especially given that this was a week before Thanksgiving.
Then it dawned on me. One of the common responses to these salons is how wonderful it is to gather together with people, something we seemed to have moved away from. Though it’s great to connect with people on social medial, especially loved ones who live far away, it’s really nice to be face to face with others while having a casual conversation. It’s lovely to hear people’s intonations and the differences in each voice. It’s nice to have to turn your head every time someone different speaks. It’s awesome to be in a room where everyone bursts out laughing at the same time. How often do people do this these days? Beyond professional networking events and major life celebrations (my kind way of saying weddings and funerals, which is truly what I mean), how often are people gathering for the sake of listening to someone else’s thoughts while sharing yours as well? How often are we sitting with others enjoying a conversation while devices remain off? How much of that is lacking in our current society? Are we to a point where we are craving each other’s physical company enough so that we’re willing to give up an evening before a major holiday to sit in a room filled with people we don’t know for the sake of talking about a single topic?
Should the next trending hashtag be #gather?