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The art of communication

Ann Swanson

The average American aged 70 years of age has spent: 6 years eating, 11 years working, 8 years amusing himself, 24 years sleeping, 5-1/2 years dressing, 3 years talking, and 6 months in church! When I heard these facts on the nightly news, they certainly made me think.

I guess the one that stands out to me is the 24 years sleeping. That is nearly one-third of your life. That makes sense though since you are supposed to get eight hours of sleep, one-third of your day, sleeping.

Have I wasted my life in bed? I do not think so. My body needed that time to refresh itself. I have not always gotten eight hours of sleep. I used to stay up every night past midnight then get back up at six in the morning. That was back when I held down a full-time job. That was what it took to have any time for conversation with my farmer husband at the time.

Now, I get my eight hours of sleep most of the time. I need that to function properly. There are rare occasions when I am out or watching a late-night baseball game.

The other fact that struck me was the six months in church. In 70 years can I only have spent six months in church? I go to church nearly every week. Sometimes I go there to work on committees or to serve dinners. While I realize that is not worship, I do daily devotions at home. Faithfully, I read the Bible and study the passage for the day. Certainly, that counts for something.

Then, there are the three years that I spent talking. Here I must confess that I have probably spent more than that amount of time in the art of conversation. I was a teacher who generally talked for my living. It was part of my job to convey subject matter to my students.

Although I now spend more time writing than I do talking, I am engaging in a way to communicate with others.

Even when I am preparing for a speaking engagement I write. I always go with an outline so that I do not get off track. Often, I am speaking of personal experience, but there are points that I want to cover.

When preparing a sermon, I do research first, then develop my message. It takes a lot of time to prepare a meaty message.

My columns are developed in different ways. Sometimes they relate to something I have read. Sometimes they relate to something I have heard. Sometimes my conversation with others is the spark. I always do a rough draft, put it aside, then come back to edit it – sometimes multiple times. When I did that piece about getting married, I worked on it for weeks. I edited and re-edited. It had to be just right.

Along with these random facts that I have begun with I found other ideas about communication and general things to know about life. “Talking is still the best form of communication.” I heard that on TV but I really believe it. Our young people today are a whiz at texting a message using various symbols, but can they really communicate in person?

Are we teaching our students what they need to know in order to succeed? Everything is being done on the Internet. Is that a good thing? Time will tell. We ordered our flight, our vehicle, and our accommodations over the Internet. In September we will see how it all works out.

These are the things that society feels that children must know. They must know how to write a letter. Oh, oh, e-mails and replies on Facebook do not count. They must know how to make a phone call – how to give a message and how to take a message. One fairly intelligent person at my son’s office could never get the details straight. She did not get enough information so that we were able to look up the client. When I worked there, I tried to model this for her taking copious notes so that I had everything that we needed. Alas, it did not sink in.

How do you talk to people who are older than yourself? Do you have that skill? You will be called upon to do this on many occasions. On the other end of the spectrum, do you know how to communicate with small children? There is a knack that makes children feel comfortable.

Can you sew on a button? When we ran a 4H group at school we taught the children to sew on buttons and do simple hems. At least they had the exposure.

Can you hammer a nail? Believe me, I did not consider that a skill that I needed until I had to hang pictures and put up curtain rods. I needed to be able to hammer a nail.

Can you balance a checkbook? I had a roommate who was sorely lacking in this area. When her statement arrived, she handed it to me to balance for her. I am not sure what she did when I moved out!

Are you able to create a budget? After it is created you must be determined enough to follow it. Often that takes a lot of discipline.

I remember when my daughter was purchasing her first car. We ran the figures. When she saw what she would be paying in interest, she was astounded. She had some money in the bank that was not earning much interest at the time. We figured if she borrowed from herself and paid herself back just like she would the bank she would save a significant amount of money. I am happy to say she did well.

All of these are simple things that parents should be able to teach their children – if they take the time. Believe me, it is time well spent. Before your children take off for college be sure they are prepared. Money management should be part of their training so they do not get into too much debt.

Talk to your children. Let them in on some of the simple skills that are the basic part of life.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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