Sunday, March 21, 2010

Listening

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What most people need is a good listening to. Often the people who need it the most are the most difficult to hear out. Little children need to be listened to, but they often articulate poorly. Busy adults tend to obsess on all that they have to do. Lonely and hurting people want to share how bad they feel. Foolish people want to impress you with how much they know. People with dementia repeat themselves, over and over.

Although it is pleasant and valuable to listen for enjoyment or edification, it is just as important to listen as an act of kindness. Ted has lived with us for a week now. Before he moved in, I heard repetitive stories from him a few times a week at most. Now I listen to him repeat stories multiple times in a day. Kindness includes paying attention, reflecting back what I am hearing, and asking questions that encourage Ted to continue and expand on his topic. Occasionally I can respond with a pertinent anecdote of my own. However, I must guard against the tendency to dominate the conversation. I want to strengthen the bond of understanding. I do not want to one up Ted.

I suspect that listening will be more difficult as weeks pass. I am task and goal oriented. I make a list and check it off. Offering the courtesy of listening to meandering stories can be a struggle. I am eager to be off to do this or that. However, I sense that it is more important for me to strengthen a weak area than it is to insist on utilizing my strengths. I have read that God is glorified in our weakness. I believe it. Now I must live it.

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