Friday, December 04, 2009

A Lesson in Conversation

This really happened..

I was invited as Guest of Honor and speaker during the anniversary of an academic institution not too long ago. After the ceremonies and the photo opportunities that usually follow such engagements, I was invited to join the college's officials and faculty for lunch.

It was a good opportunity to get to know the people better and establish linkages. Over lunch, I chatted with several of them who were seated near me. It was a bit difficult, owing to the level of noise in the room, what with everyone talking all at the same time. I had to strain a little to understand the person I was talking to.

One of those I was chatting with was a dean of one of the colleges, who was once connected with a well known NGO doing work around the world. She told me prior to settling down in the college, her work with the NGO brought her to countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, East Timor and other places experiencing extreme poverty and conflict.

I was impressed with her experience. A distinguished looking lady who did serious work not just for the Philippines but the world! And now a dean of a college!

To continue the chat, I told her that my father recently visited Ethiopia and he gave descriptions on how terrible poverty is in that country. He said that going out of the hotel which was supposed to be located in the business district of that country's capital, beggars lined the sidewalks shoulder to shoulder. So many people mired in poverty and hunger.

Of course she had experienced it first hand and knew exactly Ethiopia's situation. She concurred with the story and she said, "The biggest problem of Ethiopia is Mass Starvation."

Maybe it was the way she said it or the noise in the room. Or maybe it was me. But for a moment, I had to pause for what seemed to be an eternity of awkwardness as I processed what I think I heard.

Did she say what i think she said was the problem of Ethiopia? I was trying to keep a poker face as my mind raced in the speed of light, thinking of an appropriate response. Should I ask if people are now going blind or growing hair on their palms? Is it the result of a weakening belief in Church teachings? Moral decay?

The suddenly, I realized...oh, MASS STARVATION! Whew!

The lessons of the story is....1) listen carefully to the one you are conversing with and 2) think before you talk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good mind, good find........................................