By Charles Green

Having graduated from the St. John’s College Graduate Institute program, a Touchstones discussion feels extremely familiar to me, with participants sitting around a table and talking about selections from a book. In the Annapolis Touchstones group, we help each other to understand the texts with our questions and comments, so the process becomes truly a collaborative effort. Listening to others’ thoughts on the text, as they approach it from their different backgrounds, gets me thinking about it in ways I had never thought of before, and I always leave looking at a book from a different point of view. As we discuss what we have read, I am comfortable working out my thoughts as I talk, responding to what has been said earlier, and hopefully building on it or refining it. I appreciate how Howard, our moderator, encourages the group to participate with thought-provoking questions, and prods us back on track if our discussion ranges too far afield, without dominating the conversation. I am also thankful that while our discussions may sometimes get heated, they always stay civil, even if we might disagree about important issues, which is rare in this age when it seems arguments quickly devolve into personal attacks. Even if I might not always come away understanding the work better, I always feel like I have come to know my fellow participants better, appreciating where they have come from. In today’s contentious world, that seems like an extremely important byproduct of time well-spent with others.