Stories are everywhere, and given the chance, what stories do you want to listen to? What stories have you heard today, and what stories have you created today? A story that is worth remembering, and a story that will make a difference.
We’ve heard about a hug can change a life.
And what if, a conversation can change a life?
The idea was borned out of a conversation with a friend. I said we are not having enough conversations. Cat said we are, but people just aren’t listening! Her idea: let’s claim public spaces to have conversations and to listen to conversations of everyday people.
Not long after, Lee told me of a similar project where people held conversations in public spaces and I said, game on, we’re doing it. I sent out an email to 5 of my adventurous friends, and we organised a coffee where we decided on a date and a time.
The week after the coffee, we brought beanbags, camping chairs, a table, tea, coffee, biscuits, some cups and a kettle and claimed a spot on Brisbane Square.
We put up two signs, one said “Free Chats” and the other said, “Feel like doing something random? Come have a chat!” Within minutes, we had two random strangers sitting with us having conversations about their life and as time went on, we had at least 40-50 random strangers ranging from students to tourists, foreigner on a medical visa to a homeless man dropping in, and some stayed for hours.
For the foreigners and for the homeless man, this was some sort of a recognition of their existence. No political drama, no agenda, just people having conversations like all humans should. To connect the dots and brings back the essence of humanity and community. To us, it was stories that we’ve never heard. Genuine, honest accounts of everyday people around us, and experiences that we hear in books and the media.
Quote of the day, for me, came from the homeless man: “Have a chat? What.. have a chat? The only chat I’ve had are people screaming abuse at me”, he said in a cynical voice in his very strong accent. He sat down for about 2 hours and shared with me his experience as a soldier in the Vietnam War which was really eye-opening and saddening all at the same time. This is an Australian who’ve served the country, and now sleeps on the streets in West End, all because of the mental illness he’s suffered after the war and inability to put up with bureaucracy to get aid and the stress of everyday life.
In our daily life, its hard to comprehend how many stories we missed listening to or initiate conversations that have an effect on someone’s life. The quick, “Hey mate, how you going?”, “Good, thanks and yourself?”, “Yeah, alright” has become so much part of a norm we’re losing touch with what humanity means. What, as a society, we stand for.
So, if you’re up for something random, I challenge you to bring some chairs, or picnic rug and some cardboard, claim a public space and listen. Listen to the stories of the people around you, and you will learn about humanity more than you’ll ever have. Sometimes, a person need in their life is to be listened to.
Where to from here? We’re looking at making Free Chats a monthly project, so every end of the month, you’ll find us in the middle of Brisbane, somewhere, having chats with just about anyone and everyone.