If you have something you have been wanting to share and only needed a non-judgmental empathetic listener, don’t miss your opportunity during Macon’s First Friday. Sidewalk Talk, a new organization that opened its doors and set out its chairs back in June, brings its unique brand of community service to the streets of downtown during the popular monthly event.
The mission, says founder and current chapter leader Tanja Battle, is “…to listen without judgement, without giving advice. It’s a feel good situation for the speaker, but also for the listener.” Both parties come away with a positive experience and both learn something, either about themselves or about others in the community. The premise is that having the opportunity to be listened to is important for wellness.
Although she works in Atlanta, Ms. Battle commutes from Macon and is a long time resident, having attended Mercer University. She was involved in the Atlanta chapter and is working to build one right here in Macon. This will be the second chapter in Georgia for the worldwide organization that was started in San Francisco two years ago. Currently they have chapters in seven countries and are expanding.
Sidewalk Talk was founded by a group of San Francisco area psychotherapists with the goal to heal divides in their community by using their finely honed skills of listening. Over time they developed their methods you see today. Volunteers set up pairs of seats and passers-by are invited to share something that is on their mind. This could be a happy story, something about their grand-children, something worrying them or just about anything else.
Instead of questioning, the volunteer listens and acts as a sounding board for whatever the speaker has in mind. Usually through their own chance to sound out their story the speaker comes to their own conclusions. The listener learns something, but isn’t there to solve the problem, just act as a sounding board. Although started by therapists, it is not designed to be a therapy session, just a comfortable place for people to flesh out their own thoughts. The program is not designed for volunteers who have a background in therapy, it is open to all races, ages, abilities and economic statuses. In the end, the listener learns how to better listen and appreciate the perspective of others.
If you are interested in being a speaker, simply head to downtown Macon the next First Friday and look for the Sidewalk Talk chairs around the corner of Third and Cherry. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer listener, sign up at the national website, take the video training course and buy a t-shirt (so volunteers can be easily spotted and look uniform).