“A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years’ study of books.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The shelves are lined with books to help you be a better investor, a better volunteer, a better gardener, a better something. A $10 billion industry in just the United States, learning to help your self is big business–with books being at the top of the list of vehicles for learning. Maybe you don’t really enjoy reading, so you sign up for a seminar, and $300 later you find that you are just as unorganized as you were beforehand, with the exception of now knowing to color code items of importance in your day or having the name of a professional to contact when you are at a standstill in whatever you are doing. We can assume there is value to books and seminars, since people keep reading and attending–especially when you are learning and obtaining continuing education credits. Close to 150 years ago, Longfellow’s words and wisdom declared what is often overlooked and underappreciated in our learning today–support is sometimes sitting across the table.
Shortly after my husband told me he had decided to retire, I purchased a couple of books and read a few articles on the subject of retirement to help prepare us for this change. How to Retire Happy, The New Rules of Retirement were just a couple of my reading choices. A few months’ into this new phase in life has left us with more questions than answers, and I really haven’t been interested in hearing another expert discuss what we should be doing. Without expecting it, we sat in a room full of experts who had no professional training, and the hour in conversation with wise men and women left us feeling better equipped for the adventure ahead of us. Who were these experts? Other retirees and spouses from his company, sharing their own stories of adjustment. It was a support group of sorts, with no one leading or facilitating, just folks sharing.
Sharing our experiences with others can be helpful for everyone, but not everyone is looking for a formal support group to attend, and few of us are looking for professionals to tell us how to parent a child when the professional has never parented, or how to maneuver the Social Security system when the professional has never had to sit on hold and stand in line themselves. Most people don’t want to admit they might need an ear, shoulder, or shared experience, but when wise counsel is sitting across the table from you, it’s a reminder that we don’t have to spend more than the cost of a cup of coffee and some of our time to get a better handle on what life has been dishing out to us lately.
Because I like to have some control over my time allotment, I’ve found several groups on Facebook where I can ask questions about a specific topic: a group for computer problems, a group for people with certain eating restrictions, a group for people who live in my neighborhood, and so on. Because members are sometimes in different parts of the world, there is usually someone around to offer a response. Sometimes, of course, it’s nice to visit with people at a coffee shop or lunch who are or have been where you are in life. Wise counsel isn’t only people who are older than you–so branch out and consider visiting with younger people who might have similar experiences.
There are support groups for pretty much everything, but sometimes we simply want to spend unorganized time with people who can encourage us. Look around, be brave, and invite someone to meet at the park or coffee shop and enjoy the freedom to share and listen, and then pick up a new book if you choose for the fun of it.