I had dinner at a lavish local restaurant on Thursday night, and then Friday evening and Saturday were spent at a retreat at a local lodge. Both evenings I had fish and mashed potatoes and vegetables for dinner. Oh, and chocolate ganache and Roasted Apple a la Mode. And breakfast and lunch.

I am not going to weigh myself for a couple of days.

At the retreat I was amazed when a speaker called me out as an example of an excellent listener. We had just filled out a questionnaire about our listening skills and I had admitted that I sometimes get restless while listening. I had just done so, actually, as dinner small talk circled around lakeside real estate and favorite routes to vacation destinations, parking and people I didn’t know. The talk touched on things like business ethics, hotel management, and people I did know, all of which I would have found intriguing, but glanced away to the resolutely small small talk of affluent people in my community. I listened and tried to be interested, but didn’t always succeed.

In fact, there were times when I was so distracted that I thought about how bad I am at small talk. These topics are not supposed to be especially interesting. They are not intended to make us think deeply. They are intended to share superficial positive feelings and create a bond.

Maybe I appear to be a good listener because a) I am trying so hard to pay attention and b) I have nothing to say on these subjects.

Anyway, I was gratified to be mentioned as a good example. I was also able to facilitate the discussion I was in charge of reasonably well (lots of compliments on that, and I find those easier to believe than the one about being a good listener). People had a lot to say, which made it easier. We had set things up with some preparatory activities and discussion, which also helped.

The retreat was interesting overall, and brought up lots of thoughts and ideas for me and for others. We had a worship committee meeting today and were able to follow up on a lot of the points that came up. I’m doing fairly well at my efforts to change how I feel about meetings, and can manage weeks with five or six meetings without getting whiny about it. But it certainly is still true that I value meetings more when a lot gets done.

Still, the retreat also included many people whom I admire and respect — indeed, I admire and respect all the people who were there — and it was good to spend time with them. This has been true of all of the meetings I’ve been engaged in recently, and perhaps I have improved as a listener as a result of my efforts at changing my mind about meetings. Maybe this will end up being a good thing for my life as a whole going forward.