Yesterday I went to visit a neighbor who is very isolated. Elaine does not drive and does not use a telephone. Very rarely does anyone stop in to visit her. Most of her family lives in another state. I share these details so you will smilingly understand why I might have an agenda when I visit her every 2-4 weeks.
Yesterday my agenda was: make sure that Elaine's property manager had followed up on a maintenance request, find out if Elaine had received information about her upcoming Section 8 review, and write down any information Elaine would like me to relay to her family via e-mail. I began by sitting down in Elaine's living room and asking her how she was doing. She was eager to show me two bags of extra groceries she had gathered to share with me and our neighbors. She knows a few of my favorite foods, so she picks them up when they are on sale!
I can't remember how this thread (pun intended!) of conversation began, but Elaine entertained me for over an hour with stories of her high school sewing classes and the sewing tricks she taught her teachers! In the midst of laughing heartily at one of the stories, I realized that Elaine was enjoying this moment of storytelling and laughter much more than the usual stress of working through my agenda topics. I was also enjoying the visit much more than usual! By this point I had learned (without asking any questions) that the maintenance on Elaine's bathroom has not been done, the Section 8 letter has not been received, and Elaine prefers to wait until she can talk to her family face to face (although she has not seen them in years and has no plans to do so). Despite those items not getting resolved, we were laughing!
As Elaine and I parted, in good spirits, I resolved to continue letting go of my agenda. Perhaps sharing joy and companionship is more important in neighboring than whether or not the tiles on a bathroom wall get replaced.