Kenneth L. Hardin: No talking at the dinner table

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 24, 2022

For all those who’ve followed me in this publication or online, you know my mind never rests. I talk quite a bit daily to a number of people either on the phone or through written correspondence. I’ve been jokingly told my tendency toward verbosity can be defined as word porn. A few years ago, I shared a screenshot with a friend of my average daily email total, and she was surprised that I received and responded to over 130 emails a day. Up until a year or so ago, I had 576 contacts in my cell phone, and I would take calls up until 2 a.m.

With such sensory and cognitive overloading, I knew I couldn’t keep up the pace and had to change, but I was too stubborn to do anything about it initially.

When you refuse to humble yourself, life will do it for you. My stress levels were through the roof, and I was trying to burn that candle down to a nub when life told me it had other plans for me and showed me that humility. This chess health move by life motivated me to make some definitive changes. I never shy away from the level of loquaciousness that has served me well. I still engage in a number of written and verbal communique’s daily, but that number is significantly lower.

I’m a work in progress on trying to calm my mind and it’s a continual struggle not to overthink, overanalyze or continually engage in unnecessary cognitive single person volleyball matches against myself. I appreciate that people want to engage me in conversation and ask my opinion on various subjects. People have remarked how they appreciate how I will say publicly what they won’t or can’t.

I don’t have a filter, nor will I censor myself on any topic. What I don’t enjoy is those that ask my opinion, then get upset when it’s not what they expected. When they come at me sideways, I happily slice, dice and fillet them up verbally and serve their words back to them like less palatable hors d’oeuvres. I love how people stand behind the First Amendment and consider themselves staunch defenders of free speech as long as that speech is in accordance with their narrow views and beliefs. So, to save myself from mental anguish and the need to engage in verbal gymnastics with those less athletically garrulous, I’ve limited the number of people whom I engage with on a deep intellectual level.

A conversation I enjoyed recently with a friend stemmed from me asking him to name two people, past or present, he would love to have a dinner and conversation with. He replied that it would be his late grandmother, who died while he was in high school, so he could catch her up on his life. Next it would be Tupac because he was so gifted intellectually and said he would love to pick his brain on subjects other than music.

I would need two dinner tables because at one of them I would have to have my fantasy wives, track and field legend Allysin Felix, actresses Rosario Dawson, and Lupita Nyong’o, and the late Lena Horne, all sitting together waiting for me to come enjoy dessert with them. The other seat would be occupied by my late paternal grandfather, who died in the early ’90s. I don’t want the grandfather I knew as a child to be at my table. Instead, I want the grandfather of my younger adult years, who had two prosthetic legs and poor eyesight due to diabetes. That grandfather represents the strength necessary to persevere through the tough times when being a Black man in the South during the 1950s and ’60s was a liability. I want to break bread holding the calloused hands that showed a lifetime of working from sun up to sun up. That seat right next to me is reserved for the man who provided me inspiration, helped guide me by being a perfect role model and the shining example that helped forge and shape the character of the man I try to be every day. I want my belly to be filled with great food, and my heart fulfilled by a richer conversation with the man who earned the bible verse on his grave’s head stone, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

I want to sit beside that hero of mine and tell him, “Grandpa Pete, look at the man I’ve become, look at the life I’ve led, look at the family I’m leading, the community I fight for and the people who trust me all because of the example you showed me.” If I could have that dinner with him, I would stop talking and just listen.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.