My older brother once said I could speak the entire English language by the time I was 3-years old. That seemed at the time like a compliment. Now, I’m not so sure. I have come to regard my ability to talk as a liability, and hope to make it less so as time goes by.
I am learning from people every day, by listening. I cannot learn by talking. I have to pay attention enough to see their struggles, their strength, and their faith. They continue to shine in the midst of their worst challenges and fears. They fight with their bodies and their spirits, and they teach me every time.
On any given day in a hospital there are a hundred stories waiting to be told. Yet, too few of us are able and willing to hear them. The same is true in every nursing home, assisted living facility, house, and apartment. The desire to be heard is deep within all of us.
Regardless of age, we all wish to tell of our challenges, troubles, and victories. Those who can listen have a unique power to offer support, encouragement, and a deeper understanding of life. Listening does several things. It establishes trust. It honors the speaker. It provides space for things to be said that might otherwise not get said. It provides witness to the lives of people they seem to need. It is also rare, which makes it valuable in itself. What we hear when we listen will surprise us, teach us, and amaze us. Often too, it will inspire us. I have been richly blessed by listening to people from all