I have never been very good at small talk. “Hey, how you doing, how is work, family doing ok….” Small talk doesn’t allow you to get to know someone and I yearn for deeper connections. However, it is sometimes scary when you engage in small talk and someone opens up a little deeper. This is not a bad scary, this is good for each of us. We often don’t let people in because we don’t want to burden them, we are scared of what might happen, or we are embarrassed. We often don’t have deeper conversations because we are private people, even with social media that has posts of what we eat, baby pictures, pictures friends post from “that” party… we are still private about many things that matter. I think part of that is because we don’t design place for interaction. Our society needs public places to sit and talk. We need places to connect on a deeper level. We need places that invite us in and allow us to open up.
I think those places used to exist. Well I have seen them – front porches, and I imagine people used to sit on them and talk. At some point we moved our front porch gatherings to the rear deck and made them private. They became a place to store the grill and to be able to see the kids in the backyard. They stopped being a place to gather, talk, and connect.
Our society needs public places to sit and talk to debate to solve problems to grow as a community. This does not have to be a front porch. It could be a pocket park. It could be a town square. It has to be comfortable, safe, and well designed. It has to welcome in those that gather in a way that helps build trust. A place to gather cannot be open and cold with signs saying “no skateboarding” or “no loitering” or “no” it should say gather how you feel most comfortable, build community between other people who you know and are yet to know. This could come as part of a downtown park, a rooftop terrace, or even a front porch.