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.