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Eavesdropping on the Everyday

By Trina Adler Barno, Program Leader — Health & Nutrition
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Ireland with my three children. I lived outside of Dublin for about a year when I was in my 20s, and while I have been back a few times since then, I was especially excited to see the reactions of my kids during their first overseas experience. We had a fantastic time and the kids have great stories to tell about what they saw and did.

montage of pictures from Ireland

Friends and colleagues have asked what the highlight of the trip was for me. I definitely enjoyed the historical sites and the country scenes, the energy of Dublin’s city center, and the sea side walks in Galway. But it’s funny: When you have lived somewhere, you recognize that the “touristy” stuff doesn’t necessarily capture the spirit of the place.

For me, the highlight of the trip that reminded me of that occurred on a train ride. The kids were tired, so all three of them had tuned out the world — headphones on, eyes closed. This afforded me a rare moment of down time to watch the countryside pass by through the window, and, as it happened, eavesdrop on the other passengers.

Cell phone conversation:  “So, Mary, how’s your daughter been keeping then? Ach, Mary, not again, you must be joking? Surely to God, Mary, that’ll be 10 grandchildren for ye!”

Conversation between two gentlemen passengers: “Your man tells me the car will be ready at half 10. So, sure, I stopped into Barry’s and had a cup of tea, and walked a bit around the village. I got back to the shop at nearly 10:25, and do you know they hadn’t even started on the car!”

Conversation between two teens: “Right, I couldn’t even look at him when he was talking to me — he was GORGEOUS! My face was absolutely puce!”

Setting aside the rudeness of my eavesdropping escapade, I completely enjoyed immersing myself in the everyday lives of those train passengers. I felt as though I was a part of everyday life in Ireland.

And that brings me to the “everyday” in FD. Here, “everyday” is our primary focus, as well as our greatest challenge. In order for our messages to be heard and improved behaviors adopted, and for great ideas to be generated, we need to figure out how these messages and ideas can have meaning in the everyday lives of Minnesotans. This requires us to take the time to really, truly understand the “everyday”, and the kinds of joys and concerns that are most prominent for those we serve. So, while I don’t recommend eavesdropping as an essential work strategy, I do recommend listening to learn about the “everyday” of our fellow Minnesotans. This is a central part of our work.

For the projects and programs you are working on, what steps are you taking to learn about the “everyday?”
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