One of Jane’s many gifts was the ability to really listen to others. She went far beyond cursory greetings and polite nods of the head; instead Jane paid attention and asked meaningful questions. She also remembered that your second cousin had been ill, or your older cat was having a hard time adjusting to the new kitten.
Now that families and friends update one another through texts, quick emails and the increasingly rare phone call, the need to be listened to, the desire to be really heard is greater than ever. And it’s not just folks comfortable with technology who are exchanging information, but not connecting. There are many people of all ages and socioeconomic areas who simply don’t ‘do’ technology. Those neighbors and relatives and coworkers want to be heard, too.
The next time a stranger starts talking to you about their 17 year old cat, or how amazing hair styles are, or what they think of the flavor ice cream you are buying – just stop everything and listen. Listen to their story not as a busy, important, tired, hungry, disinterested stranger. Listen as if this were your loved one, as if it might be you in a few years, or as if it has been you when you were lonely or excited or just talkative. Listen as if this human being is worthy of being listened to.
Some of the most beautiful stories come from people we don’t even know – or those whom we think we know, but rarely hear. These glimpses into the hearts of another person can touch our lives in ways we would not have imagined and their faces, voices, and personal experiences can remain a part of us forever – if we simply take a little time to listen.
Please share some of the wonderful stories you have heard from someone in a ticket line, or when searching for an ingredient on the store shelf, or while walking dogs at a park. And please feel free to share the ways in which you have reached out to another human being through the simple but profound act of listening.
This post was inspired by Katherine’s actions – Thank you!
The wisest travel advice we’ve ever heard is, “Take half as many clothes, and twice as much money.” That might be why savvy travelers carry less luggage and wear clothing with more pockets than the average tourist.
With or without those over-sized pockets, as folks take advantage of good weather and saved vacation days, they can find plenty of opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives while on the road and out of town.
The following five ideas are simply starting points; please share your thoughtful travel ideas in the comments section below.
- Buy locally made souvenirs from independent vendors, local markets, or from shops like One World or 10,000 Villages. You’ll support a craftsperson/artist while having a unique, region-specific treasure to remind you of the great time you had.
- Pack your less than favorite – but still nice – clothes. When you arrive at your destination, buy locally made clothes to wear and enjoy, donating your clean but no longer loved clothing from home to folks who would appreciate it.
- If going to an area where the residents struggle with poverty, pack small toys, one-size-fits-all gloves, or little notebooks and puzzles to give to any children you might meet. These small items are a better choice than candy or chocolates because they may not have regular access to dental care, or there could dietary/religious factors to consider.
- Take an instant camera along. New models are small, colorful and under $100. The instantly developed pictures are fun for kids to make silly faces for; exciting for people who don’t have access to cameras/their own pictures to see, and the completed photos can be given to the subjects themselves to keep or share with their family and friends.
- Upon your return, consider sponsoring an endangered animal, family in need, conservation effort, etc. in the area you just visited. Look into giving gifts of service/action to family and friends back home instead of plastic doodads from a tourist-trap. Some good choices like Heifer International or SEVA Foundation can be found at Charity Navigator. Sometimes it’s easier to learn about the needs of a country or region firsthand, and then take action.
No matter where you will roam, or how you plan to travel this year, there are many ways in which you can make every day of your vacation one of service, gratitude and compassion – it all begins when you tuck a little hope, a little light into your luggage.
So, there you are on Jane’s Day of Service – or any day of the year – sitting in the line at a drive-through, feeling impatient and hungry and distracted by all of the to-dos still left un-done on your list. You glance into the rear view mirror and it’s an older couple, or a scowling businesswoman or a young man looking out the window absently. And then you remember that everyone has a lot on their minds and in their hearts.
Paying it forward is as easy as asking the drive-through person peering at you from the window how much the bill is for the car behind you. Then you pay for all or part of their ticket. If you can spare a buck or two or five – that’s OK. If you don’t flinch at buying the 15 burgers and drinks for the soccer team the woman behind you was picking up – go for it!
Just be sure to say, “Please ask them to Pay It Forward, too. Thanks!”
And there it is – you have made someone’s day a little happier; you’ve surprized a stranger with a good deed – and ideally inspired them to do the same in their travels. Mona/Jane would be delighted!
Please share the ways you’ve paid-it-forward, and your reaction to having been the recipient of such thoughtfulness. Do you have additional ideas, suggestions, ways more people might take part? Please share them with us!