In 50 cities across the world 'sidewalk talks' aim to counter loneliness and disconnection. Meet a San Francisco volunteer


Can a practice of deep listening in public spaces heal wound of unhealthy individualism and disconnection?

This is the mission of community listening project Sidewalk Talk which engages more than 1,000 trained volunteers in 50 cities across 12 countries. Every week they sit on sidewalks and offer ‘free listening’ to anyone, about anything. Together they aim to change the world through one heart-centered conversation at the time.

The idea was born in heart of a San Francisco psychotherapist Traci Ruble. It quickly attracted interest and grew into the listening and volunteer-led global movement and non-for-profit it is today (watch a video on Traci’s story here).

Ruble believes prizing human connection over identity politics is the most revolutionary form of protest you can take up and the best thing you can do for overall health.

It seems both talker and listener benefit from this practice of deep and active listening. It not only holds a space for talkers to open up, be heard and be held but becomes a platform listeners to find connection and meaning in their lives.

Listener and volunteer Myisha T shares her experience in this report found on Fresh Dialogues.

An excerpt:

When I first learned of Sidewalk Talk, I was having a depressive episode…I was struggling in my business…online marketing it’s lonely, it’s isolating and I saw this beautiful project on FB and I just lit up! It’s been a year now…I find myself being more articulate, connecting with people, being more compassionate, I’m a better mother, daughter, friend. I’m less reactive…It’s truly been life changing…

This offers a true example of what we have previously referred to on here as ‘active citizenship’; dedicated volunteers who see their leisure time as a huge resource and choose to spend it meaningfully - to practice and actively actualise their responsibility as a citizen of this earth - and through this choice find meaning and wellbeing for themselves.

On a recent stay in San Francisco A/UK associate Maria Dorthea Skov ventured into the city’s most notorious neighbourhood Tenderloin to meet marathon runner, author, minister and Sidewalk Talk listener Barbara Meyers. Her ministry is mental health which lead her to become a Sidewalk Talk volunteer.

Every Thursday, Barbara Meyers goes to Tenderloin. She sits there with one or two others, and listens. She has listened more times than any other volunteer at Sidewalk Talk.

Barbara has a real knack for helping everyone feel like they matter, and that they're a human being that deserves respect, consideration, listening and kindness.

Enjoy four short interviews below in which Barbara talks about her experience and value of her practice.

On how she got involved and why she enjoys it:

A memorable story from the streets of San Francisco:

On the transformative power of listening:

On finding purpose through serving others:

More on Sidewalk Talk here.