Swiss Servas Hosts With A Lot To Say

** von Renee Chinquapin **

I once again biked about Switzerland, this time staying with 12 Servas hosts, mostly for two nights each, in the cantons of Zurich, Aargau, Bern and Schwyz. Instead of commenting on the natural beauty and serenity of Switzerland, I focus in this report on what sort of exchanges I had with my generous, considerate hosts, most all of whom are retired, children long out of the house. Almost all are in long-term marriages and are all extremely active, with grandchildren, travel, volunteer work, gardening, living rich, full lives.

If Servas is indeed about exchanging views and experiences, mostly in an intercultural context, then I did manage to share my thoughts about the political situation in the USA and Austria with my Swiss hosts, who seemed to know absolutely nothing about Austria. 

But otherwise I would say that our exchange involved them speaking and me listening. I give this some thought and came up with the following possible explanations. These were all highly intelligent, socially engaged, well-traveled, idealistic people. Thought they spend a lot of time involved with others, rarely do they get a chance to freely speak at length to a genuinely interested listener like me (it was my profession, to listen to clients who came to my psychology practice). They seemed to love being heard, their thoughts and feelings being respected — I didn’t challenge them or disagree; how often does that happen? Thus, our exchange was genuine and balance — they actively spoke, I actively, respectfully listened, asking evocative questions. 

But it also occurs to me that nowadays we elders are no longer the font of wisdom . . . Googleis. No one asks us questions if they can get the/an answer online. So our natural role as elders — carriers of experience and collective wisdom — has been usurped by a search machine. 

Thus I believe that it is no coincidence that my hosts had a tremendous need to speak and be listened to. After all we’ve spent our lives reflecting and learning, it is only natural we wish to pass this on to others as long as we can.


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