Tuesday, March 2, 2010


My latest AARP Magazine has a section that begins with, "We tweet, we text, we email.  Everybody's chatting but is anybody listening? Why America needs to revive the vanishing art of conversation.  WE NEED TO TALK." 

As most of you know I was on South Padre Island last week.  One of my walks on the beach not only hit me with rain and fog, but also with the reality of two young men huddled together on a log that had been washed to shore.  Nothing too unusual about this, except for in the beauty and serenity of this place, these two were staring speechless at their lap top! Most of you know me well enough by now to know what my reaction to this was.  It wasn't pretty.  I wanted to shake them, tell them that this is the one life they have, and I wanted to ask them if they had any idea of how blessed they were to be in this place, to inhale, to exhale and watch the tumultous waves and wonder about this earth and this planet and to fall in love with life. But I was afraid they had not practiced the fine art of listening, as their observation skills were somewhat lacking.

Tourists and 'Winter Texans' from Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota walked around these two buried, not in sand, but in the screen of their computer.  The tourists ignored them, the kids ignored them, and the sandpipers and seagulls quietly observed, as they walked around in circles waiting for a few crumbles of food to be dropped.

Apparently most of us have built walls around ourselves, barracading us from the rest of the world, with our iPods, cell phones and notebooks. But why is it necessary that we do it in restaurants and on the beach? Why do we have to always be 'on?'  Just a week or so ago a friend told me his grandaughter had sent 4,000 text messages in one month.  She even sent a text message from her bedroom to her mother in the kitchen downstairs asking if dinner was ready!

And don't get me started on social networking sites!  "Gotta go to the grocery. Don't forget to pick up milk. Gotta go brush my teeth." Are these conversations?  And who the heck cares? Harvard psychiatrist Richard S. Schwartz, M.D., believes "We move a lot, and that widens and weakens our connections with other people. Technology creates this same widening and weakening."  

For what it is worth my feeling is this, we are so consumed with digital conversations that feed our self importance that we have forgotten the fine art of listening, of sharing, of conversation, of actual eye contact with a friend. What about a BlackBerry free zone!

Why is there such an obligation to be available in public places? Why are we afraid to block out the noise in our world?  Why can't we develop a listening heart?

Most people feel they are good listeners, but in reality few are.  Alan Jones tells us that, "If we listen with our ears, all we may hear is 'noise.'  But when we listen with our hearts, we may learn to hear the heartbeat of the world." I can pretty much guarantee you that you can't hear the 'heartbeat of the world' on your cell phone or iPod.  As the AARP article states, "We're in danger of becoming a nation of hyperconnected hermits, thumbs furiously working our BlackBerrys."

A precious friend sent me a text message the other night that simply said, "Hi."  I sent a text back that said, "Hi Back!"  Then asked him to phone me.  He did so and we connected, we spoke, we laughed, we shared and even cried a little.  He travels a great deal and spends much too much time in hotel rooms, not being certain what city, much less what state he is in.  Being connected is important to him.  So yes technology connects him.  Like all of us, on occasion, he gets lost and lonely and yearns for the voice of someone who truly cares, someone who will listen and hear and ask nothing of him!

 This I understand. When I see his email or text messages come in on (yes) my BlackBerry, I smile.  We connect not out of an egotistical need for self , but out of need to remember we are there for each other.  A touching, a reaching out, a savoring of  friendship, a need to hear the voice of someone who loves us, grounds us, and is nonjudgemental and accepts us as we are when nights get dark and bumpy.

Thoreau's quote below says it all. We need to remember how to hold hands, to listen with our hearts and to hear - for listening, true listening, can be a prayer.


" And were an epitaph to be my story I'd have a short one ready for my own.  I would have written of me on my stone, "'I had a lover's quarrel with the world."
~Robert Frost~

Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.
~J. Isham~
"Every person in this life has something to teach me — and as soon as I accept that, I open myself to truly listening."
 ~Catherine Doucette~


  "Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force...When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life...When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other...and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. ...Well, it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way."
~Brenda Ueland~
"The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer."
~Henry David Thoreau~

You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.
~M. Scott Peck~

"A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something."
~Wilson Mizner~

"The wise old owl lived in an oak;

The more he saw the less he spoke;

The less he spoke the more he heard:

Why can't we all be like that bird?"

~Edward H. Richards~






If you would like Patsy Swendson to speak to your church group, etc., please contact her at the above email address.





My name is Sina Teofilo and I am a contractor for the Texas Army National
Guard Yellow Ribbon Program and I just wanted to say that the staff and theoverall program is wonderful!! The first time I saw your organizationattend our event was last month in San Antonio at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.The feedback that we received on our surveys was overwhelming with commentson your organization and how great you all were with the service members and their families. I just wanted to say thank you to your staff because they were friendly and very informative. I hope you all know how helpful andbeneficial your program is. It is one of a kind and I hope that it
continues to grow and prosper. Thank you for all that you do.
Sina Teofilo
Yellow Ribbon Support Specialist
Contractor for Army National Guard

“Pockets of Peace” is a beautiful and comforting booklet. Please let us know where we can get more copies. Bless you for all your work for veterans.


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