I’m reading Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation. I’ve heard her speak on TV and share her concern that communication technology is an assault on empathy and social relationships. Her research documents a sense of unease about our relationship with technology, that I-phones, texting, Facebook, etc., have turned relationship into transactions. Since I haven’t finished the book, I’m oversimplifying when I say her solution is for people to talk to each other. I’ll be interested in her full argument.

My friendships, but even conversation with the checker at the grocery store, are especially important because so many of my interactions are limited. It seems now as if maintaining relationships is like drinking water through my fingers.

I’m not feeling as good as I did six months ago, have given up Thursday Mercy retreats because they take too much energy. I’m down more but keep having nose bleeds; the latest problem is bleeds in my right eye. The present one looks ghastly. It has to upset anyone who sees me. I see people less often because it’s the best I can do, so I’m increasingly aware of the sweetness of personal communications: visits, phone calls, email exchanges with people I care about.

Our youngest son’s wife teaches first grade in a northern Colorado elementary school with a high number of poor and immigrant workers’ children. In August she sent an email asking for support of a DonorsChoose.org classroom request. In her letter to family she explained her need for “supplies to build language and peer interaction experiences for all students but especially my English language learners and students with special needs.”

Her DonorsChoose.org application was called “Hands on Fun to Build Language and Relationships.” On the site she wrote, “My students need Legos, Magformers, Gears! Gears! Gears! and other open ended building sets to foster creative collaboration and discussion. The puzzles and board games increase problem solving and communication.”

This dedicated young woman is teaching her students empathy, respect for others and the importance of friendships, as well as first grade curriculum skills. She is giving them the foundation for the healthiest kind of communication.

I sent money for Lego’s, one of our kids’ favorite toys growing up. All DonorsChoose.org requests are filled through Amazon, which I usually avoid because of sweat shop conditions at their work sites. I prefer to buy from local owners. When I asked my daughter-in-law what else her class needed, she said more beginning readers to take home.

Since I don’t know much about first grade readers, spent an hour at St. Louis County Library headquarters not far from here talking with collection development and youth services staff. I also visited with a good friend from University City Public Library who catalogs all children’s books for the library. Each of these professionals was eager to help, generous with her time, and gave me lists of teacher approved beginning readers.

I spent another hour ordering 32 different Level 1 books, excellent quality used and new, with Jeremy at Powell’s Books in Portland. Lucky me, Powell’s had a 30% off sale that week, so I got more books for the money, supported my favorite independent book store and my daughter-in-law. When the books arrived in Colorado, she took a photo of her class of eager, grinning little kids, each holding one or two books just for them to take home to practice their reading. Photo now on my refrigerator.

My UCPL library cataloger friend came the other day to chat and hear about the first grade class and their books. We posed for a photo by my garden clump of aromatic asters blooming their pretty lavender hearts out, covered with bees and small butterflies. I’m mailing the photo to the first graders so they know the lady who sent the books, and her library friend who helped her choose them.

A friend from International Women just returned from a week’s hiking tour with her husband of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California. She visited last week with a slide show travelogue of the trip. I love other people’s travel photos, especially now that I don’t travel, and this friend and her husband take beautiful pictures. I especially liked hearing her delight as an Eastern European in the beauty of these woods and mountains. I grew up in Oregon, lived in the mountain west till we came to St. Louis; it’s satisfying for a friend to share my beloved places.

This time last year a folk dance friend traveled to New Mexico to hike and visit art sites. When she returned she brought travel literature she’d collected for me and told me about their trip. She also brought me a bar of pine scented soap, which I saved till this September. Now it’s worn down to a small piece, but every time I wash my hands I smell Fraser Fir and think of her in the mountains, the fun we had at Saturday folk dance, lunches together talking about our lives.

Blanche, my home health aid, is worried about her 13 yr old niece in Las Vegas, living with her father and 70yr old aunt. The girl visited St. Louis this summer and Blanche noticed she is lonely, feels isolated and unhappy. Her father and sister are very protective of the child, but live in an apartment complex for older people, with no kids around. Blanche wants them to get her involved in social activities, so we talked about things she might do to help her niece.

When Blanche said she’s not good with computers, I said I’d look up Boys and Girls Clubs of America info for Las Vegas. Last Friday I gave her print-outs for the 11 clubs in metro Las Vegas, with photos of each building, addresses and phone numbers, photo of club director and his or her mission statement and goals for kids. She was happy with the packet, I was happy I could help her; we hope this lonely young girl may find a friend in Boys and Girls Club.

Our oldest son called to visit last week, driving across the state on business. He said the newly weds came for Sunday dinner, and his son asked especially for Mom’s potato casserole so they could take home leftovers. The couple hasn’t quite figured out meal management and cooking. After dinner the three kids and the new daughter-in-law played Monopoly, just like old times before this boy left home. Table games and puzzles have been an important part of the family’s life from the beginning. The younger girls especially like Rumikub with Grandpa when they visit here. This son’s children and I played a lot of National Parks Memory when they were little, so we have happy vicarious memories of Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks, among others.

I believe the town hall meeting format at tonight’s presidential debate is one of the strengths of participatory democracy. I’ll be watching, and hope Clinton and Trump engage in civil conversation with ordinary citizens, and each other, to show us and the world their best. I’m completing entry this Sunday afternoon and will post it before the debate.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.