By Kyle Poudyal
Sidewalk Talk, the “Listening as an Act of Love. will take place Wednesday, Feb. 15 outside the Cafeteria in the HS building from 10:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.
Sidewalk Talk is a non-profit organized listening project. According to their website, their mission is to inspire, teach, and practice heart-centered listening to create belonging, justice, and social health.
The Sidewalk Talk project was brough to Montgomery College by Dr. Stacey Peterson, a professor at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus. Her first experience with Sidewalk Talk was a presentation on CBS Morning.
“It was a story they did about loneliness, and how people suffer from loneliness. It really resonated with me. I was looking for an outlet to do some volunteer work. When I saw this, I said ‘Oh man, this sounds so perfect,’ tying into my interpersonal communications class,” she explained. This segment on Sidewalk Talk led her to go to their website, and she later signed up to be a city leader.
“I said, ‘This seems like this would be something perfect to include in our Montgomery College community.” The COVID-19 pandemic, however, prevented her plans to implement it at Montgomery College.
“When it was time to come back, I was still teaching remotely. But I really wanted to implement this, knowing all of the stressors people had to go through.” With the help of some members of Service Learning and other faculty members, they did a pilot. With its success, they brought it back for the fall semester of 2022.
Dr. Peterson is looking forward to bringing it back again to the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus. She hopes that it will be as great a success as it has been previously.
Professor Hannah Stocks, a faculty member at the Germantown campus, brought Sidewalk Talk to Germantown.
She said, “Sidewalk Talk was successful on the TPSS campus last year, and we were thrilled to partner with Professor Peterson and Schnell Reed Garrett to launch the program in Germantown.”
Professor Stocks considered the first Sidewalk Talk event at Germantown a success. She added, “After being listened to, many students talked about how it felt good to connect and two people shared that they exchanged phone numbers to follow up later! After the first event, 25 students completed a short survey. All 25 said they would recommend the program to others and 10 said they were interested in being trained as listeners.”
How Sidewalk Talk Benefits both the Listener and the Speaker
When it came to the benefits of the speaker, Dr. Peterson said, “the people who speak, they get a chance to take a load off. They get a chance to talk about whatever they like, for as long as they like. Just being able to unload in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way is something that can be beneficial for someone.”
However, those who go to speak should not expect to be getting advice from their listener. Dr. Peterson added, “it’s not therapy. We’re not trying to solve your problems. We’re just providing a space for you to share,”
Professor Mitchell Tropin, an adjunct professor at Montgomery College -Germantown, volunteered as a listener for the event at Germantown in the fall. He said he found the idea of the event appealing.
“Students usually have to just listen. Rarely do students get to say anything, especially things that matter to them,” he explained. He had a lot to say on the experience as a listener.
“It was good because I think our general experience was people [were not just complaining], and they talked about issues that [were] bothering them, or things they were working on. People took the event seriously. [They] really wanted to express themselves. I think that’s the beauty of this thing. We don’t get the chance to really talk to people. We yell a lot,” he added.
Sidewalk Talk brings a novel approach to the way people can view others around them. From one side, someone gets to freely express emotions without judgement. From the other, someone gets to learn more about what effects a person, and how they cope with it. For more information on Sidewalk Talk, visit their website: www.sidewalk-talk.org. For students at the Germantown campus, the event will be held outside the cafeteria from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM. For students at Takoma Park\Silver Spring, it will be held at the same time on the ground floor of the Student Center.