“Hello. My name’s Susan.”
“Hello. So’s mine.”
Two Susan’s meet. It’s the week before Christmas in a care home for older people in Reading where I grew up. Brown Owl, who is also a District Nurse, has taken a pack of Brownies to visit residents at the home, sing a few carols and offer home made cards. I’m now 12, promoted to the Guides, come along to ‘help.’
The carol singing went okay. Some of our audience knew most of the words though others seemed bemused by what was happening or were asleep. But now it was the really tough part: “Spread out and give your card to one of the ladies (they were all ladies) and have a chat”.
The conversation about being called Susan lasted about 1 minute. Only another 29 to go before we were leaving at half past. I felt very hot. I don’t remember what we talked about or how we got through it. I think I found a chair next to Susan and we commented on what other people were doing. I wonder what Susan made of it all.
This December there will be lots of other Susan’s, visiting care homes with their Brownies, school or faith group for Christmas or Hanukkah, or hosting small groups of visitors, some confident, some tongue-tied.
Talking to strangers is hard for most people. Arranging the room to mix people up a bit can help, so you don’t have two generational rows looking at each other across a big sea of carpet. Songs with actions, balloons, facilitated games or activities can spark interaction, laughter, movement without words. Some prepared questions can open up conversation that helps people really meet and find things in common.
I’ve learned a lot of things over my years at Magic Me, from the groups I’ve worked with and watching our skilled Associate Artists support a room full of strangers to get to know one another. One of the most important is that meeting is particularly hard when no-one quite knows what the point is. At Magic Me a first meeting is one of a series, the start of a relationship, something that it takes time to build.
So this December, if you’re planning an intergenerational gathering, could it be the start of something new and regular? Maybe next Christmas you’ll be visiting old friends, with a year full of memories to celebrate.