In northern Russia, they have an expression, “soul talk.” It means speaking from the heart, talking about BIG things. Grandparents sit their grandkids under the old oak tree and say, “Let’s talk about some big ideas. Let’s talk about our souls, about what’s important.”
These conversations can take hours.
In our country, there’s not even a word for “soul talk.” Parents are too busy checking their Twitter feeds to sit down and tell their kids, “You know, this is what I believe in. This is where you come from. This is what your grandma did when she was your age. This was what she hoped for you.”
According to one study, the average parent engages his or her kids in conversation for an average of ten minutes a day. Even stay-at-home moms spend little more than 15 minutes talking with their children.
By the time you throw in a few, “Are you sure your room is picked up?” and a “Did you do your math homework?” there’s barely a minute left over for a quick peck or an “I love you.”
And what does that really mean? Do we sit down with our children and tell them about love? Or do we let them make their own assumptions from the message they get on the silver screen, the ones where handsome, well-built men look into the eyes of gorgeous beauty queens, coo endearments and instantaneously find love. Instead of just mouthing the words, maybe we should sit down and tell our kids what love means. That loves is when the beauty queen is giving birth to the handsome hunk’s babies and he’s there holding her hand. Or when he comes home late and she decides to trust him anyway.
We need to spend hours talking about things like love. About big ideas. Big dreams. Not just, “How’d you do on the spelling test?” or “Okay, who took the remote?” But conversations about deepest hopes, failure, politics, God, bodies, favorite type of Jell-O.
Children need hours and hours of conversation with people who are willing to serve as role models. They desperately need a glimpse into the untrampled countryside of their mentors’ minds.
Your kids need to talk to you, to hear what you think, to know what you stand for. They need to hear you say that a big idea is far better than a big car, that a big dream is more important than a leather jacket.
My old roommate Mary and I used to talk “soul’ for hours. Night after night, we’d get going about 10 p.m. and talk about everything from politics to the pollution in the Kansas River to whether or not her blue top would go with my paisley skirt. We’d proceed in nonstop soul talk–which was more like thinking out loud—until 2 or 3 in the morning, until one of us would muster the resolve to say, “I guess we’d better get some sleep.” Those talks were energizing. They stimulated our hearts. They made us bigger people.
It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important in this culture of garage door opener and smart phones. We forget to wave to our neighbors, let alone talk from the soul. No longer do we sit on our porches, shout “hello.” No longer do we trust our leaders, give people the benefit of the doubt.
What’s worse, we don’t even recognize the sadness of what we have lost.