Sunday, May 30, 2010
THE GIFT OF LISTENING
They express their feelings in words most of us don't understand. They express their feelings from inner wells of courage that are fragile, yet voluminous in strength. To our military serving today in Iraq and Afghanistan winning is a habit. They don't take no for an answer. Sometimes the internal gutteral sounds, from our bravest, are shaped into sentences that shake me to the core. But the great majority of American's, I fear, do not listen.
Why don't they listen? Or care? Or understand? Are their words deposited in a bucket of things to do later when they have the time? Are they too busy, too preoccupied with their own 'stuff.' As they steamroll through the days they miss the cues and sail right past the chances to make a difference, the chance to do the right thing.
Yesterday the all volunteer Saturday morning breakfast crew served 148 wounded warriors and their families. Without exception they thanked us for coming and taking our day off to make them breakfast. One young soldier asked what he could do to pay us back for all we do for them. I simply kissed his cheek and told him he had already done it....he had gone to war and fought for our freedom. This is the only homecooked meal they get all week. Do you know how that makes us feel? This is what giving back is all about. This is what listening is all about.
Another, showing me how an IED blast had scared his forearm tattoo, told me "We go to fight for you - to fight so the fight is there, not here. When asked what he needed, "We need you to be here, in the United States, fighting for us. You take care of us and we'll take care of the bad guys."
But where are all of these people fighting for our military? We occasionally, almost matter of factly, learn of the news of a soldiers passing, a family's mourning, and a nation of courageous young men and women one less. But do we listen to what the universe is telling us? Do we simply say, "That's a shame" and move on. What is the price of freedom? Do we really care or understand what sacrifices have been made?
What does it take to make people care? I am not sure I know. What I do know is that it takes rare qualities, like caring, time, unselfishness, concentration, and sensitivity. But perhaps the most important thing of all is to simply listen.
Providing space for this silence while the other person (in this case our wounded warriors) tells us their stories. Perhaps the wisest person of all is the person who doesn't feel compelled to fill up the blank spaces with unnecessary words. Listening to someone else, listening, really listening is an art. Hearing is a gift. If we interject ourselves into the equation then we find that people bruise easily. It isn't about us, it is about listening and truly hearing.
We must learn to listen - to hear - and if necessary, realize that, if we don't the damage may be irreparable. Listening deeply to to those who have messages to share can offer consolation, reassurance, calmness and ease, security, relief, and a soothing feeling of being cared for and appreciated.
Our personal journeys define and mark us. To have someone there for us when we are lost can often mean everything. "One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love." Words from Sophocles...still pertinent today. To love our military, to love our friends, to love them enough to listen is everything. To love them enough to hear is extraordinary!
"The world is a looking glass and gives back to everyman the reflection of his own face."
"Courage is what it takes to standup and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
"Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference."