Sit down and share

Oct 9, 2006

“Mrs. Edwards wants to meet you,” said the message from Ryan Montoya, who works for John and Elizabeth Edwards and their One America Committee, so I made my way over to the UNC Law School this afternoon for a one-on-one chat with Mrs. Edwards. She was on campus to read from her new book, Saving Graces, but she was meeting me as part of ongoing outreach to open up a dialogue with local bloggers, she said. (The invite from Ryan had a little to do with this incident.)

This was one of the most enjoyable five-minute conversations of my life. Elizabeth Edwards was interesting and interested; she asked me what I blog about, and as I told her about my online writing about family and work and school and Peace Corps service and community building, she listened attentively with direct eye contact.

I mentioned StoryBlogging and my post about teaching honesty to Anna, and she followed by recalling how those on the bus used to concoct stories about the houses they passed on their way from one campaign stop to the next, relying on the details they noticed about the decoration or condition of the homes along the road. In that exchange, we were two writers, agreeing on the powers of observation and the importance of thoughtful storytelling. (Before law school, Edwards studied English; she taught legal writing at UNC Law, I learned later.)

Downstairs, Edwards would tell the crowd that it’s in finding the shared experiences where one should start a conversation. That’s a political lesson she and her husband are following to great effect as they position themselves for future elected office, no doubt. But it’s a also a personal lesson that Edwards, in her book and in her reading today, explains she has used to find solace and comfort and strength in times of gloom (losing a teenage son, and breast cancer).

Much of my blogging — and much of my offline life and work — relies on conversation. I’ve long prided myself on being well-read enough to be able to talk to anyone about anything (well, be able to listen, actually). Today’s chat with Edwards was a pleasant reminder that short, amiable conversations can be powerful forces of attraction, just what our country needs, perhaps, to come together again.

Who are you talking to today?

Anton Zuiker

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